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UK Cervical Cancer Vaccine Program for Schoolgirls
  UK Schoolgirls to be given cervical cancer jab
By Katherine Griffiths, City Correspondent
Last Updated: 11:31pm GMT 26/12/2006
The UK Government is to devise a national programme for girls to have the world's first vaccine against cervical cancer early in the new year.
The move will create a major breakthrough in women's health and generate bumper profits for drugs companies.
It is also expected to cause friction with groups who fear the vaccine - against the sexually transmitted disease that causes cervical cancer - will encourage girls to have sex earlier.
The Department of Health is likely to get school nurses to administer the jab to children and young teenagers. It may also launch a campaign to encourage girls who have left school to go to their GPs for the vaccination.
Thanks to ground-breaking scientific discoveries in the 1990s, cervical cancer is set to be the first common form of cancer that can be avoided through a simple vaccine.
The disease is the second-biggest cancer killer of young women after breast cancer across the world and, in developed countries, costs health services billions of pounds in screening, surgery and medicines.
The area is crucial for the drugs industry, as analysts believe the vaccine could generate about $4bn (2bn) annually.
The race to dominate the market is between Gardasil, a drug made by Sanofi Pasteur MSD, a Lyon-based joint venture between Merck of the US and France's Sanofi-Aventis, and Cervarix, made by Britain's GlaxoSmithKline.
Richard Clark, the chief executive of Merck, said: "In my 34 years at Merck I have never been involved with a launch like this. Twenty thousand women a month die of cervical cancer. Every day counts."
Jean-Pierre Garnier, GSK's chief executive, said: "It is a big expense for governments, we understand that. But most countries are going to pay for it. How can you not?"
At the moment Gardasil is in the lead over Cervarix, as it has been licensed in both the US and Europe. In America public funding is available in most states. France, Germany and Italy are due to put public money behind the vaccine in the first half of next year. The British Government is set to start making Gardasil available on the NHS towards the end of next year.
GSK submitted Cervarix for regulatory consideration in Europe in March and should hear back in the next few months. It delayed its application to US regulators by a few months and will probably file in April.
Both companies say the demand for the vaccine is so large that the market is big enough for both of them. Mr Garnier has said he is unconcerned that Gardasil is ahead because its makers are "unblocking the process".
That has included protracted negotiations with US religious groups over concerns that giving the vaccine to 12-year-olds would encourage them to start having sex.
The head of Merck's vaccine division, Margaret McGlynn, said people's fears could be calmed by presenting Gardasil as "an important part of the picture" rather than the entire solution.
While both Gardasil and Cervarix are set to be the most expensive vaccines on the market, their makers are likely to make them available at cut prices in the developing world. Being the names behind such an important vaccine could buy both GSK and Sanofi and Merck not just short-term profits, but a boost to their reputations for years to come.
Crucell signs vaccine production deal with Merck
Wed Dec 27, 2006 12:02am ET
AMSTERDAM, Dec 27 (Reuters) - Dutch biotechnology firm Crucell (CRCL.AS: Quote, Profile, Research)(CRXL.O: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Wednesday it has signed a cross-licensing agreement with U.S. drugmaker Merck (MRK.N: Quote, Profile, Research) on its vaccine production technology.
"This agreement will make it possible to speed up the delivery of our malaria and TB vaccines to the people in need, and makes it realistic to do so on the mass scale required," Jaap Goudsmit, chief scientific officer at Crucell, said in a statement.
Critics chide state over cervical cancer vaccine delays
By Jessica Fargen
Boston Herald Health & Medical Reporter
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
In the five months since the federal government urged young girls and women to get a vaccine that prevents cervical cancer, Planned Parenthood says the state has been too slow to cover the cost of the life-saving vaccine at its clinics.
"Massachusetts should be a leader on this and should cover it for all women who want and need to get vaccinated," said Dr. Karen Lifford, medical director at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, who made sure her 9-year-old daughter was vaccinated with the Gardasil drug.
MassHealth, the state's health insurance for the poor, covers Gardasil in many places, such as doctors' offices and hospitals. But it will be another month or more before it's covered at family planning clinics, said MassHealth pharmacy director Paul Jeffrey.
He said the rollout is complex and they hope to extend coverage to family planning clinics as early as the end of next month.
"It is an important advance," he said, adding that MassHealth has paid 63 claims for Gardasil since August. "MassHealth wants to pay for this. It's medically necessary. We think it's a good thing."
Gardasil, approved by the FDA in August, protects against several strains of human papillomarivus virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease that is responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases in this country.
It's recommended for girls aged 9 to 26. This year about 9,710 U.S. women will get cervical cancer and about 3,700 will die from it, according to the American Cancer Society.
More than 39 states, including New Hampshire, offer the vaccine for free to girls age 18 and younger, according to Merck, the company that makes Gardasil. Massachusetts public health officials haven't decided whether to make the vaccine available for free.
Jennifer Hyde, a pediatrician at Westwood-Mansfield Pediatrics, said there has been interest in the vaccine, although at first she thought some parents might be apprehensive because of the STD angle. The vaccine also prevents 90 percent of genital warts cases, also caused by HPV.
"We were worried parents wouldn't want to talk about their 11-year-olds having sex, but I think that hasn't really been a problem," she said. "We explain you have to have the vaccine before you've been exposed to the virus. We want to get the girls way before they've had exposure."
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