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UK government drops Cervarix for Gardasil

Published on 28/11/11 at 10:53am
Gardasil picture

The UK government has performed a U-turn on its HPV vaccine programme by favouring Sanofi and MSD’s Gardasil over GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix.

Gardasil will now replace Cervarix from next September for the government’s human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme.

Around 70% of cervical cancers are caused by HPV and both vaccines focus on stopping this virus and in turn, lowering the risk of cervical cancer.

But Gardasil gives a wider range of protection, preventing infection from four HPV strains as well as anogenital warts, whereas Cervarix only protects against two types of HPV strains and not against any form of genital warts.

GlaxoSmithKline’s drug won the previous contract in 2008, but GSK said it did not participate in this tender process as the Department of Health had changed its mind on what it wanted from the programme.

It said: “Due to the decreased weighting for cervical cancer and the increased weighting for genital warts in the 2011 HPV vaccine tender, GSK chose not to participate.

“GSK will not participate in tenders where the specifications mean that it cannot effectively compete without undermining the value of our vaccines,” the firm added.

The government’s director of immunisation, Professor David Salisbury, said that changing vaccines was ‘not unusual’.

“Young women and girls who have already been vaccinated or who are due to be vaccinated before September, do not need to be vaccinated again,” he said.

Richard Stubbins, vice president of Sanofi Pasteur MSD, said: “We have worked closely with the Department of Health to support public health immunisation in the UK for over 25 years.

“I am delighted we are now helping to protect young women against the burden of HPV diseases with the four type vaccine.

“We hope that the UK will benefit not only from protection against cervical cancer but also from a reduction in the burden posed by genital warts. This has been the experience from Australia, the first country to fund a vaccination programme with Gardasil.”

Financial details of the contract were not disclosed as to keep the deal ‘commercial in confidence’.

According to the BNF Gardasil currently costs £346.40 for the four required doses whilst Cervarix is priced slightly lower at £322, but under the tender process these drugs can be heavily discounted.  

GSK is believed to have won the previous contract by offering their vaccine to the NHS for a much lower price that Gardasil. 

In September this year a report by the Health Protection Agency suggested Gardasil was a more cost-effective vaccine for cervical cancer than Cervarix.

The economic model used by the HPA suggested Cervarix would need to cost £19 - £35 less per dose than Gardasil for it to be as cost-effective.

Adam Hill

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