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Will Cheaper HPV Shots Be the Difference Between Life and Death?

Will Cheaper HPV Shots Be the Difference Between Life and Death?

It is hoped that a dramatic and historic price cut on leading HPV vaccines will help immunize millions more young women in developing countries and combat cervical cancer rates, but is this change one that should be praised or rallied against as not having gone far enough?

The HPV vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix, made by Merck and GlaxoSmithKline respectively, can cost developed countries like the United States more than $100 a dose. However, with this announcement, Merck and GSK will now offer the vaccines to poorer countries for just $4.50 and $4.60 per dose respectively.

Initially this is just for the period between 2013-2017, but hopes are that if this goes well, an extension might be possible. What’s more, Merck and GSK have vowed the price will drop further as demand increases.

This is a record low for the vaccines which target the human papillomaviruses (HPV), sexually transmitted infections that a number of studies have established dramatically increase a chance of women developing  cervical cancer. A number of studies have also shown that the HPV vaccine can dramatically cut that risk.

While cervical cancer kills relatively few people in developed countries, it is estimated that globally, 275,000 women a year die from the disease. More than 85% of cervical cancer deaths occur in poorer countries and Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 22% of all cervical cancer cases worldwide.

The issue is further complicated by the nature of the disease, which requires specific screening protocols relying on facilities not always available in developing countries, and by the vaccine itself, which must be refrigerated at all times prior to being administered and given in three doses over a six month period, increasing the difficulty of effectively deploying the vaccine. But with this price cut, that could change.

“By 2020 we hope to reach more than 30 million girls in more than 40 countries,” Seth Berkley, chief executive of the GAVI Alliance which helped negotiate the deal, is quoted as saying. “This is a transformational moment for the health of women and girls across the world.”

The program will target countries like Ghana, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania, with Kenya being the first to receive the vaccination program later this year.

GAVI plans to eventually deploy the HPV vaccination programs in more than 40 countries within the next seven years. GAVI will absorb the cost to reduce the on-the-ground charge to 20 cents a dose, covering the difference with government subsidies from developed nations and donations from organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

While this move has been welcomed by many as a positive step, critics have slated pharmaceutical companies for not offering a better deal.

“Why are the pharmaceutical companies still making profits off the backs of the poorest countries?” The New York Times quotes Kate Elder, a vaccines policy specialist at the the charity Doctors Without Borders.  ”It will still cost nearly $14 to fully protect a girl against HPV. It’s really disappointing that pharmaceutical companies haven’t offered GAVI a much better deal.”

It is estimated that Merck made $1.63 billion and GSK more than $416 million from their HPV vaccines in 2012. Still, Merck contends that the prices they have quoted are as low as they can go while covering manufacturing costs and reminds that there will be further reductions as demand increases.

Given that the price of the HPV vaccine has long been a contentious matter as it is among the most expensive vaccines in the U.S. and not for reasons of a difficult manufacturing process, but simply because the price is based on a speculative value of how much the health care system stands to save, this has also led some to ask whether the fact that pharmaceutical companies can now offer such a dramatic reduction (over 90%) means that prices have been kept artificially high even at the expense of poorer nations.

Still, this drastic reduction in cost undoubtedly offers a real step toward tackling cervical cancer rates in developing countries and, as such, is welcome, but with the caveat that there is yet more work to do.

 

Related Reading:

Give Gay Men HPV Vaccine Says British Medical Association

The HPV Vaccine: Is It Working Yet?

Oral Sex More Likely To Cause Throat Cancer Than Tobacco

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61 comments

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6:33AM PDT on Jun 8, 2013

Never trust " The American Cancer Society", or anything they promote! We are all guinea pigs for their treatments, in all areas. We are still the richest nation, but getting sicker as a result of shots & drugs(that are pushed on us) & our food is being tampered with more & more(Monsanto!) People need to wake up & be more self reliant. Don't allow the Government to dictate to you! Sadly, we are becoming a fascist nation & it's very frightening!

7:02AM PDT on May 20, 2013

thank you

7:02AM PDT on May 20, 2013

thanks

11:26PM PDT on May 19, 2013

ok

3:57PM PDT on May 18, 2013

HPV IS DIAGNOSED BY PAP MOST OFTEN. IT IS NOT NECESSARILY DIAGNOSED BY BIOPSY. THE PAP WILL INDICATE MANY THINGS AND NOT ALL OF THEM ARE SERIOUS. PAPS WILL INDICATE A RECENT PERIOD AND SOMETIMES LABS ASK FOR RETEST. IF THE PAP IS NORMAL, THEN CHANCES ARE ANY OTHER TEST WILL NOT BE CORRECT. IN MY CASE, A BIOPSY SAID I HAD HPV WHEN MY PAP WAS NORMAL. THE BIOPSY, SAME AREA, WAS LATER CULTURED AND TURNED OUT IT WAS NOT HPV. IN FACT .....

ALSO, DYSPLASIA IT STATES IN THE MERK MANUAL IS NOT ALWAYS CAUSED BY A VD. IN MY CASE MY DYSPLASIA WAS DIAGNOSED AS A FACT OF TAKING STRONG BIRTH CONTROL PILLS IN THE EARLY 70'S. AS SOON AS I STOPPED TAKING BIRTH CONTROL PILLS A YEAR LATER MY DYSPLASIA WAS LESS AND I HAD HAD A TUBAL LIGATION IN 1976...HOWEVER MY DYSPLASIA WAS NOT CAUGHT IN TIME SO I HAD TO HAVE LASER SURGERY LATER AND NEVER GOT DYSPLASIA EVER AGAIN.

ALSO, MY GYN DOCTOR IN THE 1980'S SPECIFICALLY TOLD ME MY DYSPLASIA WAS NOT VD, AND THAT THE LASER SURGERY WOULD WORK AND IT DID.

I ALSO HAD A CARCINOMA IN SITU IN THE EARLY 1980'S WHICH ONE DOCTOR SAID WAS HERPES. I WAS OUTRAGED. I WENT TO A FEMALE GYN AT THE SAME MEDICAL CENTER AND SHE SAID HE MUST HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE..I SAID NO HE TOLD ME PERSONALLY..WELL, SHE SAID YOUR CARCINOMA IN SITU GROWTH WAS NOT HERPES. HE WAS MISTAKEN...SHE STILL INSISTED HE WAS TALKING ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE TO COVER UP FOR HIS BLATANT LIE ABOUT MYSELF. EVEN MY MEDICAL RECORDS SHOW NO HERPES BEFORE I WENT TO AFRICA. I

9:57AM PDT on May 17, 2013

I would never get this vaccine - it has generated some of the worst adverse reactions. all vaccines have the potential to damage, but this one seems to be the worst of the lot.

10:11AM PDT on May 16, 2013

Thanks for sharing.!

2:55AM PDT on May 16, 2013

ty

12:56AM PDT on May 16, 2013

Shocking how expensive this vaccine is in the US!!! That's some insane profits being made by Merck and GlaxoSmithKline!!!

12:09AM PDT on May 16, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

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