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International News

Experts Call for Making Cervical Cancer Vaccine Available to Asian Women

September 18, 2006

The vaccine against the four human papillomavirus (HPV) types responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases is especially needed in Asia, experts told a meeting of the Asia-Oceania Research Organization in Genital Infection and Neoplasia on Sept. 9 in the Philippines. About 266,000 women in the region develop cervical cancer each year -- more than half the world's 500,000-plus cases -- and 143,000 women die of the cancer each year. Many who die are in their 30s and 40s, said AOGIN.

"This is a silent killer because it may take up to 10 years before symptoms start to appear, and by then the disease has progressed to an advanced stage," said Hextan Ngan, a University of Hong Kong cervical cancer expert.

The first HPV vaccine available, Merck & Co.'s Gardasil, is marketed in seven countries, and the firm's response to calls to discount it for developing countries "has been favorable," said Ian Frazer, Gardasil's co-developer and the University of Queensland's director for the Center for Immunology and Cancer Research. The three-shot, $360 vaccine was approved in the United States for females ages 9-26.

Merck officials "recognize that it is unlikely that countries in this region will be able to afford [the] vaccine at the same cost as the United States," said Frazer. "On the other hand, they also have to be realistic and say that they can't reduce the cost below the cost of actually making the vaccine."

AOGIN plans to organize a meeting soon with drug and charity officials to discuss how to make Gardasil accessible to women in poor nations, said Michael Quinn, an official with the International Gynecological Cancer Society. Gardasil "is undoubtedly expensive and what we need to do is get the message across that for developing countries who can't afford it, the price needs to come down," he said.

Back to other news for September 18, 2006

Adapted from:
Associated Press
09.10.2006; Teresa Cerojano

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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