RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Swiss drugmaker Novartis (NYSE: NVS) says it has begun injecting its swine flu vaccine into people for its first human tests.
Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff told The Associated Press in London that a person in Britain became the first person to get its swine flu vaccine about 10 days ago.
The vaccine is being tested in a yearlong trial in about 6,000 people in Britain, Germany and the United States.
Althoff said the vaccine will likely be on the market before the trial finishes.
European and U.S. regulators have a fast-track approval process for swine flu vaccines that will allow them to be sold before extensive safety data are available.
Novartis is building a vaccine plant in Holly Springs, N.C.
GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK), which maintains its U.S. headquarters in Research triangle Park, N.C., is also developing a swine flu vaccine.
Novartis and GSK each have been awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts by the U.S. government to create and produce the vaccines.
"First supplies of the vaccine will be available to governments from September onwards, with shipments expected in the second half of 2009 and early 2010," GSK said Tuesday. "The exact pace of delivery will be dependent on capacity and the yield of the influenza strain."
The U.S. has ordered $250 million worth of vaccine, GSK said. It reported deals with nine other countries are also signed.
Alphavax, another RTP-based firm, is also developing a swine fule vaccine.
Meanwhile, World Health Organization said Tuesday that 1,154 swine flu victims have died since the virus emerged in April.
WHO said that includes 338 deaths reported in the week leading up to last Friday.
More than 300 of the new deaths were in the Americas, bringing the death toll in that region to 1,008 since the virus first emerged in Mexico and the United States, and developed into the global epidemic.
WHO also said there is no evidence that the new H1N1 virus is mutating into a more dangerous form, but that six patients have been found with a virus resistant to Tamiflu, the most commonly used swine flu drug.
Laboratory confirmed cases of the disease have reached 162,380, but WHO said this number understates the total caseload because hard-hit countries are no longer testing all the people with flu symptoms.
At least 168 countries and territories have reported confirmed swine flu cases.