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Cervical Cancer Vaccine More Expensive and Less Effective than European Rival

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Switching from the current vaccine against cervical cancer to one used in America and over Europe could save the NHS millions of pounds according to an analysis by the Health Protection Agency.

GlaxoSmithKlein won the contract to supply the vaccine Cevarix in 2008. The decision was met with dismay by many sexual health doctors who expected the rival vaccine, Gardasil, produced by Sanofi Pasteur MSD, to win the contract. Gardasil protects against four strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) which can trigger cervical cancer, where as the current vaccine only protects against two.

Dr Kate Soldan, leader of the latest analysis, estimates that genital warts, most common among people aged between 16-24, costs the NHS £17m every year. Writing in the British Medical Journal’s journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, the researchers added, “there are a number of home and clinic treatments available, which can be long and painful and have variable success rates,” and recurrence is common.

Researchers found that in 2008 there were 149 000 cases of genital warts reportedly treated across NHS departments with the average cost of each case being £113.

Dr Soldan said genital warts, “exert a considerable impact on health services, a large proportion of which could be prevented through immunisation using the quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine,” Gardasil.

The British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASSH) opposed the government’s decision to use Cervarix and a recent survey of 520 members this year suggested that 93% favoured Gardasil.

As the paper is published as the three-year contract for the vaccine comes up for renewal, it’s likely to reignite the debate.

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