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International News

Australia: Young Women Will Have to Pay $500 for Cervical Cancer Drug

November 8, 2006

Australia's Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has decided against adding the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil to the national immunization program, which would have made the vaccine free to females ages 12-26.

PBAC found the benefits of Gardasil were not cost-effective for taxpayers at the price proposed by CSL, Australia's manufacturer of Gardasil, said the Health Department. In addition, PBAC found the long-term efficacy of Gardasil is unclear, depending on whether a booster shot is needed later. The total cost of offering Gardasil would have been about $625 million Australian ($480.3 million US) over the first four years, PBAC estimated.

For Australian women, the consequence of PBAC's decision is that they must pay $460 ($353 US) for the three-series vaccine.

Professor Ian Frazer, who helped develop the vaccine, said he was disappointed PBAC did not even subsidize younger girls' access to Gardasil, which protects against 70 percent of cervical cancers. "Unfortunately, it really needs to be used universally to actually reduce the global burden of disease," he said.

"There's no dispute that Gardasil works, so for the government to knock it back on the basis that it's just going to cost too much seems so amazing," said Berry Wain, scientific director of the New South Wales Cervical Screening Program.

CSL said its economic model, supported by PBAC, had more than sufficiently demonstrated Gardasil's cost-effectiveness.

A spokesperson for Health Minister Tony Abbott, who defended "PBAC's integrity and process," said "it is now open to CSL to bring a fresh application and the government would look sympathetically if a fresh application succeeded." PBAC's next meeting is set for March 7, 2007.

Back to other news for November 8, 2006

Adapted from:
Australian Associated Press
11.08.2006; Jane Bunce; Tamara McLean

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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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