Thursday, August 21, 2008

Questions Raised About HPV Vaccine Gardasil

A number of news stories this week have raised questions about Gardasil, Merck's HPV vaccine, including its cost, effectiveness, and the marketing campaign promoting the vaccine.  Brian Lehrer examined the issue on the Brian Lehrer Show (WNYC) this morning; you can download the podcast here.

New York Times: Drug Makers' Push Leads to Cancer Vaccines' Fast Rise, by Elisabeth Rosenthal:

Shot In two years, cervical cancer has gone from obscure killer confined mostly to poor nations to the West’s disease of the moment...

One of the vaccines, Gardasil, from Merck, is made available to the poorest girls in the country, up to age 18, at a potential cost to the United States government of more than $1 billion; proposals to mandate the vaccine for girls in middle schools have been offered in 24 states, and one will take effect in Virginia this fall. Even the normally stingy British National Health Service will start giving the other vaccine — Cervarix, from GlaxoSmithKline — to all 12-year-old girls at school this September.

The lightning-fast transition from newly minted vaccine to must-have injection in the United States and Europe represents a triumph of what the manufacturers call education and their critics call marketing. The vaccines, which offer some protection against infection from sexually transmitted viruses, are far more expensive than earlier vaccines against other diseases — Gardasil’s list price is $360 for the three-dose series, and the total cost is typically $400 to nearly $1,000 with markup and office visits (and often only partially covered by health insurance).

See also:

NY Times:  Researchers Question Wide Use of HPV Vaccines, by Elizabeth Rosenthal

Newsweek: The Fast Track, by Karen Springen

Wash. Post/HealthDay: Cervical Cancer Vaccine Worth the Cost: Study, by Amanda Gardner

Wall St. Journal Health Blog: Is Merck’s Gardasil Vaccine Worth the Money?, by Jacob Goldstein

In the Media, Medical News, Sexually Transmitted Disease, Teenagers and Children | Permalink

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