GlaxoSmithKline says that it is launching Rotarix – a new vaccine against rotavirus, a condition that can lead to severe diarrhoea, dehydration and death if left untreated – in its first market of Mexico today.

GSK is taking the unusual step of introducing the vaccine in the markets where the need is greatest. The majority of the estimated 440,000 annual deaths from rotavirus infection occur in sub-Saharan Africa and South America, and GSK hopes to launch the vaccine in many other Latin American countries as well as countries in the Asia Pacific region throughout the course of 2005. Rotarix has so far been filed in more than 20 countries around the world.

In trials involving 70,000 children, Rotarix was shown to be up to 90% effective against severe rotavirus-related gastroenteritis in the first year of life, and up to 84% effective in the second year of life. In addition, it has been shown to be successful in preventing hospitalisations, and to have a similar side effect profile to placebo.