NHS cervical cancer vaccine could be cheaper


The Government’s choice of using GSK’s Cervarix to vaccinate against cervical cancer is less cost-effective than Merck’s Gardasil, a new study has found.

Authors of the Health Protection Agency (HPA) study stated that, if equally priced, Merck’s Gardasil was more cost-effective, despite the fact that Cervarix may provide better protection against cervical cancer, but said that “considerable uncertainty” remains about the differential benefits of the two vaccines.

In 2008, the UK Government chose Cervarix for its Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme, believed to be the cheapest option.

But since then, new evidence has emerged to differentiate the two vaccines.

The HPA has now found that Cervarix would need to be between £19 to £35 cheaper to match Gardasil’s price.

Also, Cervarix has proved to give better protection against cervical cancer caused by HPV types other than 16 and 18. Gardasil has also shown protection against vulvar, vaginal and anal cancer.

A spokesman for the HPA said: “The Department of Health will use the results of this study as part of its decision-making process when reviewing its current vaccine choice.”

The selection of the vaccine will be re-evaluated when the current tender for the vaccination programme expires before the end of 2011.

“Deciding which vaccine to use for national immunisation programmes is a complex task. Many factors, including the cost of the vaccine, must be taken in to account,” added the HPA spokesman.

Both vaccines protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which are responsible for over 70% of cervical cancer cases, as well as other types of cancer. Gardasil also vaccinates against types 6 and 11, which cause the majority of genital warts as well as a rare disease called respiratory papillomatosis.

Human papillomavirus is a common sexually transmitted infection seen most often in young women. There are more than 100 types of HPVs; some cause genital warts, but others cause cancers including cervical cancer.

HPV testing is currently being integrated into England’s cervical cancer screening programme, and will be fully incorporated within the year.

Cervarix was found to protect against five of the most common cancer-causing viruses in July 2009.