Merck’s cancer vaccine approved

I mentioned back on May 17 how the FDA was scheduled to make a decision on Merck’s new HPV vaccine, Gardasil, by June 8. The FDA handed down their approval today, a decision which is no surprise to anyone, since it’s 100% effective against one strain of HPV, and 99% effective against two others. The vaccine is a huge boon for the public, and also for the beleaguered Merck:

This cancer kills 3,700 women each year in the United States and hundreds of thousands more worldwide.


Gardasil, manufactured by Merck & Co. Inc., protects against the two types of HPV responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. The vaccine also blocks infection by two other strains responsible for 90 percent of genital wart cases. It will be available by the end of June.

It is likely that Merck will market Gardasil as a cancer vaccine rather than an STD vaccine for political reasons. There has been some speculation that the religious right would opposed the vaccine if they thought that it would lead to premarital and/or teenage sex. To combat this, Merck launched their “tell someone” anti-HPV campaign several months ago to soften the social impact of the drug before the approval was granted. I’m sure we’ll see Merck tie a new marketing campaign for Gardasil into this tell someone HPV campaign to allow a smooth transition from one to the other — despite their assertions to the contrary. Even if a direct connection between Gardasil and the tell someone campaign isn’t made, Gardasil is currently the only vaccine approved to prevent HPV, so a woman asking about her doc about HPV prevention is almost akin to her asking for Gardasil — even if she doesn’t know it. (Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.)

In any event, this is great news for everyone in the first world and the third. Hopefully this will mean that HPV-induced cervical cancer will finally go the way of polio. This is some of the biggest cancer news in a week already chockfull of cancer breakthroughs.

[tags]Medicine, pharmacy, Gardasil, HPV, genital warts, STDs, cancer, oncology, Merck, vaccine, cancer vaccine[/tags]

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