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Chiron withdraw MMR

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SAN FRANCISCO - Chiron Corp. on Thursday recalled and withdrew a childhood vaccine sold in Italy and other foreign countries, compounding the biotech company's headaches as it recovers from a recent production shortage of flu shots.

The Emeryville-based company's latest slip affects about 5million doses of Chiron's measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, called Morupar.


The vaccine is used in Italy, Syria, Jordan and a variety of smaller countries that receive the drug through the United Nation's Children's Fund and Pan American Health Organization.


Italy determined five patients immunized with Morupar suffered adverse reactions, including fever and swelling glands, commonly associated with the vaccine, company spokeswoman Alison Marquiss said.


The same pattern hasn't been cropping up with MMR vaccines made by two other manufacturers, prompting the Italian Medicine Agency to order a withdrawal of Chiron's product from the market to protect the public's health.


In a statement, Chiron described the recall and withdrawal as precautionary and emphasized there's no reason to believe patients already immunized with Morupar face any long-term health risks.


Chiron's woes with its flu vaccine have been more severe, reducing the company's sales by more than $250 million during the past two years.


In 2004, Chiron triggered a public health panic after contamination concerns at an England plant prevented the company from delivering 50million flu shots - about half of the national stockpile.


Chiron has agreed to be acquired by Swiss drug maker Novartis AG, but four Chiron shareholders with a combined 17.5 percent stake in the company believe the sales price of $5.1 billion is too low.


A shareholder vote is scheduled April 12. Federal regulators already have approved the proposed Novartis takeover.


Chiron's shares fell 19 cents to close at $45.51 Thursday on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

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