6 European countries pull Novartis flu vaccines

Associated Press
FILE - This Oct. 25, 2011 file photo shows the logo of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG on one of their buildings in Basel, Switzerland. Novartis AG on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, reported a net profit of $2.48 billion during the third quarter, with income remaining flat as new drugs offset patent expirations. The Basel-based company's profits between July and September were virtually unchanged from $2.49 billion in the third quarter of 2011.  (AP Photo/Keystone, Georgios Kefalas, File).
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FILE - This Oct. 25, 2011 file photo shows the logo of Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis AG on one of their buildings in Basel, Switzerland. Novartis AG on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, reported a net profit of $2.48 billion during the third quarter, with income remaining flat as new drugs offset patent expirations. The Basel-based company's profits between July and September were virtually unchanged from $2.49 billion in the third quarter of 2011. (AP Photo/Keystone, Georgios Kefalas, File).

BERLIN (AP) — Six European countries have ordered a temporary ban on the import or use of some Novartis flu vaccines.

Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Switzerland have limited the use of Fluad or Aggripal, or both, after the company reported the appearance of small particles in the vaccine to Italian authorities.

Italian health officials say the company knew of the problem since July but only notified them this month.

Novartis spokesman Eric Althoff declined to specify Friday how long the Basel, Switzerland-based pharmaceutical giant waited before telling authorities.

In an email, Althoff said that "once the deviation was seen, an investigation was started and the findings were shared with the Italian Ministry of Health."

Other flu vaccines are available in the affected countries but delivery bottlenecks are expected in some regions.

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