UK to replace Cervarix with Gardasil for HPV vaccination programme

The UK Department of Health announced Thursday that from September next year, Merck & Co. and Sanofi's Gardasil will be used for the country's human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme, replacing GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix. The health ministry said that the decision followed a competitive tendering exercise.

David Salisbury, the government’s director of immunisation, said a move by the NHS to a new medication is not unusual and “can happen following competitive tendering exercises or when new research findings come to light.” UK lawmakers decided to make the change on the advice of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, and after studying evidence collated by the Health Protection Agency. Salisbury said "we have reflected the changes in scientific knowledge that have become available since last time. They are not huge changes...we still prioritise the prevention of cancer...but based on all these things, the winner is Gardasil."

GlaxoSmithKline noted that it had opted not to bid in the tendering process because the government had made clear it wanted a vaccine offering broader protection. Cervarix and Gardasil both protect against HPV types 16 and 18, which cause more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, while Gardasil also offers protection against HPV types 6 and 11 that can cause genital warts.

Since the HPV vaccination programme was introduced in 2008, Cervarix has been administered to 1.5 million girls. GlaxoSmithKline UK general manager Simon Jose, who said the company will continue to supply the UK government with the vaccine until the switchover, underlined the drugmaker’s role in the UK’s first HPV immunisation programme, adding the “latest figures show that more than 84 percent of girls aged 13 to 14 have helped to protect themselves against cervical cancer by getting all three doses of GSK’s vaccine.”

Global sales for Gardasil reached $988 million last year, and are expected to climb to $1.25 billion by 2015. Cervarix sales last year were $375 million and are forecast to reach $848 million in 2015.

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