Using Gardasil made by Sanofi Pasteur MSD instead of Cervarix could save NHS millions of pounds says study
Switching from the cervical cancer vaccine now in use by the NHS to the one used by the US and most of Europe could save the health service millions of pounds, according to a new analysis from the Health Protection Agency.
The British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline won the contract to supply its vaccine – Cervarix – to the NHS immunisation programme for schoolgirls launched in 2008.
The government’s decision was greeted with dismay by many sexual health doctors, however, because the rival vaccine – Gardasil, made by Sanofi Pasteur MSD – gave protection not only against cervical cancer but also against genital warts. Cervarix is bivalent, protecting against two strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can trigger cervical cancer, but Gardasil is quadrivalent, protecting against four.
The government has refused to reveal the price GSK offered in the tender process. Another study by the HPA, published in the British Medical Journal in 2008, calculated that for Cervarix to be as cost-effective as Gardasil, it would have to cost between £13 and £21 less per dose.
The new analysis, by Dr Kate Soldan and colleagues, estimates that genital warts – the most common viral sexually transmitted infection diagnosed in sexual health clinics in England – cost the NHS around £17m a year. They are most common among women aged 16 to 19 and men aged 20 to 24.
The paper, published in the BMJ journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, notes that “there are a number of home and clinic treatments available, which can be long and painful and have variable success rates”. Recurrence is common.