The following BBC story diagrams the corporate infighting over which multi-national Pharma Giant wins the very profitable HPV vaccine contract with the UK public health department. Glaxo needed a win big time. Merck has effectively shut them out of the lucrative American market, (the paper work has the FDA logo, but in the ‘Mercky’ world of vaccine politics, Merck lobbyists know how to deliver…a politician, regulator, or an agency, Merck Money moves opinion and decisions.) Merck won’t stop fighting to get a piece of the UK school girl market. Expect continuous stream of Merck public relations rhetoric throughout the balance of 2008 and up to the International Human Papilloma Virus Conference, held in Sweden next June. Both Merck and Glaxo are scheduled to deliver papers. In the Merck world view, “Its not over, until it is over.”
Why will Merck continue to fight for a piece of the UK? The answer is in the BBC story noted in the bold print, “The UK vaccination programme will cost an extra £9 million a year.” and “Health Minister Dawn Primarolo described it as an “exciting opportunity” which could eventually save 400 lives a year.”
Clinical trial veracity, HPV vaccine safety, and actual effectiveness aside, and taking venial politicians swayed by generous lobbyists into consideration, am I the only one who took a pencil to the back of the envelope and divided £9 million by 400 deaths annually, to come up with approximately £22,500 per life saved? Hasn’t anyone asked “Wouldn’t cervical cancer education, increased access to PAP Tests, early intervention and treatment be a better use of public funds?
There are less invasive ways to save those precious 400 lives, than transferring vast amounts of public health resources to Big Pharma shareholders.
Row over cervical vaccine choice
Human papillomavirus causes cervical cancer
A new vaccination programme to protect schoolgirls from cervical cancer later in life will be using the wrong vaccine, say campaigners.
Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmithKline, will offer immunity to the strains of a virus which cause 70% of cases.
However, some experts say the Department of Health should have chosen a rival version, which also protects against genital warts.
The government insists Cervarix came out on top after rigorous assessment.
It seems that the UK is fated to be not just the poor man of Europe but also the warty one
Terrence Higgins Trust
The vaccine will be given to 12 and 13-year-olds from September, and protects against two strains of human papillomavirus.
Health minister Dawn Primarolo described it as an “exciting opportunity” which could eventually save 400 lives a year.
However, some health charities, while welcoming the introduction of a cervical cancer vaccine, said that Cervarix represented a missed opportunity.
The other type of vaccine, Gardasil, used by the majority of vaccination programmes worldwide, also protects against two other strains, which can cause genital warts.
The Terrence Higgins Trust said it was disappointed at the “short-sightedness” of the decision, and accused the government of a false economy.
“It seems that the UK is fated to be not just the poor man of Europe but also the warty one.”
A spokesman for the Family Planning Association added: “Genital warts is the second most common sexually transmitted infection in the UK after chlamydia.
The vaccination programme has always been about cervical cancer protection, irrespective of which vaccine was chosen. We chose the vaccine that best met this need
Department of Health
“Selecting the Gardasil vaccine would’ve been a huge preventative measure in terms of health and financial costs to the NHS.”
Sexual health charity Brook echoed this, describing the rejection of Gardasil as “a shame”.
However, the Department of Health were quick to reject the suggestion that it had made the wrong choice.
A spokesman said: “The contract has been awarded for the vaccine that scored best overall against a number of pre-agreed criteria and offers best overall value to the NHS.
“The vaccination programme has always been about cervical cancer protection, irrespective of which vaccine was chosen.
“We chose the vaccine that best met this need.”
The criteria, said the Department of Health, included cost-effectiveness and effectiveness.
GlaxoSmithKline described the announcement as “great news for girls and women across the UK”. The company’s share price was 2% up at one point today.
Sanofi Pasteur MSD, the makers of Gardasil, said it regretted that the UK would not benefit from its “unmatched” protection.
The vaccination programme will cost an extra £9 million a year, and will also include a “catch-up” campaign for teenage girls up to the age of 18 starting in September 2009.
Cervarix, which is licenced for use in more than 60 countries worldwide, is given in three doses over a six month period.
At the moment, approximately 200,000 women each year have pre-cancerous cells on their cervix detected by the NHS Screening Programme, and it is hoped, after a few decades, this will fall as the effects of the vaccine are felt.
Smear testing will continue – as most women will not enjoy the protection of the vaccine, and cancers can still emerge even in vaccinated women.