A new report claims that while sales of influenza A (H1N1) vaccines “may not have reached the levels predicted by some optimistic industry executives and analysts”, but they boosted the bottom line of several pharmaceutical companies “in an otherwise tough year”.

The study, from Kalorama Information, notes that makers of swine flu vaccines reported sales of $3.3 billion in 2009 and as there was no clear model to follow for marketing, companies were innovative. The researchers say that Novartis capitalised on its knowledge of pandemic flu vaccines to become first to market and earned the largest US contract, while GSK performed better in the international market. For CSL, “it was home field advantage”, as the government of Australia ordered a dose for every person, while at Astra Zeneca, “a unique delivery method earned them market share”.

Indeed, Kalorama’s Bruce Carlson noted that while Astra Zeneca didn't earn the revenue of the others, the H1N1 pandemic gave the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker “an important showcase for intranasal delivery”. Response to its FluMist product for the seasonal flu had been slow, but it was “broadly utilised for H1N1 shots, and consumers and providers are now more comfortable with the intranasal option”.

The report claims that the types of revenues earned by these companies will not recur, as recommendations from the US Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organisation are to add the H1N1 strain into this year's seasonal flu.