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PUBLIC HEALTH & EDUCATION | Cervical Cancer Vaccines Could Be Cost-Effective for Developing Countries, Researchers Say

PUBLIC HEALTH & EDUCATION | Cervical Cancer Vaccines Could Be Cost-Effective for Developing Countries, Researchers Say
[Aug. 29, 2008]

Cervical cancer vaccines from Merck and GlaxoSmithKline could be cost-effective if subsidies or new prices are created so developing countries can afford them, researchers said Thursday at the World Cancer Congress in Geneva, Reuters reports. Francesco Xavier Bosch of the Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona said the current price of the vaccines needs to be adapted to "meet what individual countries can afford." He added that a possible solution would be tiered pricing according to the scale of a country's efforts and the gross national income per capita. Experts say low-income countries cannot afford the $360 cost needed for the three-dose course of Merck's Gardasil and GSK's Cervarix. The companies have said they will reduce "substantially" the cost of the vaccines for developing nations, and a Merck spokesman noted that the company would provide vaccines including Gardasil at lower prices, even below profit prices, according to Reuters.

Experts have determined that cervical cancer vaccines would be cost-effective for the Asia-Pacific region -- which has more than half of the world's cervical cancer cases -- at $10 to $25 per vaccinated girl. In order for vaccination to be cost-effective in the Caribbean and Latin America, the amount would have to be less than $25 per vaccinated girl. Future studies will be conducted in Africa, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, according to Reuters. Cervical cancer is the second most common type of cancer in women and is responsible for about 300,000 deaths worldwide each year, primarily in the developing world, according to Reuters. According to Bosch, if trends continue, developing countries will "face a 75% increase in the number of cervical cancer cases because of growth and aging of the population in the next two decades."

In addition, new cervical cancer screening methods are showing promise in small studies as less expensive and viable alternatives to pap smears. One new method that involves acetic acid and vinegar is inexpensive and appears effective at detecting pre-cancerous lesions. The method also requires only one visit to a health provider and can be performed easily by nurses, according to Reuters. "More research is needed to determine an efficient combination of these new approaches, and each country will have to decide which is best for them," Bosch said (Kahn, Reuters, 8/28).