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Merck, GSK cut price of cervical cancer shots for poor countries

Drugmakers Merck and GlaxoSmithKline have cut the price of cervical cancer shots in a deal that will deliver them to poor countries for less than $5 a dose. The new record low price for human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines should mean millions of girls in developing countries can be protected against the disease, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisations (GAVI) said on Thursday.

"By 2020 we hope to reach more than 30 million girls in more than 40 countries," Seth Berkley, the group's chief executive, said in a statement announcing the price deal. More than 85 percent of cervical cancer deaths are in poorer countries and globally, 275,000 women a year die of the disease. That means it kills more women world-wide than childbirth, according to GAVI, claiming a life every two minutes. GAVI, a non-profit group that funds bulk-buy vaccine programmes for poor countries, will deliver the cut-price shots.

It said in February that Ghana, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania would be the first countries to get support in pilot projects. The vaccines - Merck's Gardasil and GSK's Cervarix - can cost more than $100 in developed countries and have been introduced in immunisation campaigns in rich regions like the United States and Europe in recent years.

They are generally given to girls aged around eight or nine and over to protect them against the human papillomavirus that causes almost all cervical cancers. A study published in 2011 found that since 1980, new cervical cancer cases and deaths have dropped substantially in rich countries - mostly due to better screening and earlier detection - but increased sharply in poor regions. Sub-Saharan Africa has 22 percent of all cervical cancer cases world-wide.

Copyright Reuters, 2013


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