Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cervical cancer vaccines

The UK has recently approved a second vaccine that protects against HPV called Cervarix from GSK, in addition to Gardasil from Merck. Both vaccines protect against HPV, but Gardasil also protects against gentical warts, which Cervarix does not.

Genital warts on a maleMale with genital warts - image courtesy of Wikipedia

The wholesale price for the two is exactly the same, £80.50, and the formal list price is also comparable at £240 per vaccination. Other European countries appear to have chosen Gardasil, for it's extra protective effects. Genital warts are, of course, far more common than cervical cancer in Western Europe. Most women over 40 receive a regular annual Pap smear to screen for HPV and cervical cancer, hence the low rates compared to Latin America and Africa, where the smear test is considerably less common.

Guess which vaccine the NHS chose in it's wisdom? Yes, Cervarix. Any parent wanting to innoculate their daughter with Gardasil will therefore have to get it on private health plans at a much greater cost.

Meanwhile, although a small number of boys were included in the trial, there were insufficent numbers to gain approval for use in the male population. If you are going to reduce the spread of genital warts and HPV in the population, it makes sense to innoculate both surely?

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