Posted on 21 Aug 2008
The cost of a cervical cancer vaccine makes it not worthwhile to administer to women over 18 years old, finds a study that may affect the maker of the drug’s efforts to market to that age group.
Gardasil, manufactured by Merck & Co., is available for females ages 9 to 26, a prescribed treatment that makes economic sense for preteens because they are less likely to have the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer, according to a study released by the New England Journal of Medicine. However, the study says the cost benefit depends on how long Gardasil's protection lasts, and the life expectancy gained by treating females older than 18 with Gardasil doesn’t outstrip the $300 cost of the vaccine.
Jane Kim, an author on the study and an assistant professor at Harvard University, said, “We aren't saying older women can't benefit. We are just saying that from a societal perspective there might be a better use of this investment in money… you are getting diminishing returns.”
Gardasil is one of Merck's top products and may generate $4 billion and represent 14 percent of Merck’s earnings by 2012, say analysts. However, Gardasil sales dipped 9% to $326 million in the last quarter, prompting Merck to expand its marketing efforts to focus on older age groups now that millions of girls and teens have already received the vaccination. Merck said it offer will free doses of Gardasil for older women if their insurance refuses to cover the vaccination.
Merck, the third largest U.S. drugmaker, is the sole manufacturer of a cervical cancer vaccine in the U.S. GlaxoSmithKline Plc's request to sell its cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix in the U.S. has been delayed by the Food and Drug Administration. Glaxo's product is sold in Europe and Australia.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 12,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in the U.S. in 2004 and almost 4,000 died of the disease.