Manufacturers agree to lower cost of HPV vaccines in developing countries

In collaboration with Adfero

A new commitment to lower the price of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for developing countries could help to prevent thousands of cases of cervical cancer in these nations.

The vaccine offers protection against the most common strains of HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer.

Merck, which manufactures the HPV vaccine Gardasil, has now agreed to sell the vaccine at a significantly reduced price to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI), a public-private global health partnership that aims to increase access to immunisation in the world's poorest countries.

GAVI will now be able to purchase the HPV vaccine at US$5 (about £3) per dose - 67 per cent lower than its usual cost.

The move should help to prevent cervical cancer deaths around the world, 88 per cent of which occur in developing countries.

According to Cervical Cancer Action, of which Cancer Research UK is a member, the disease is currently the second most common cancer among women in the developing world, largely because these women have little or no access to early screening and treatment.

Death rates from cervical cancer have fallen in high-income countries in recent decades, thanks to effective screening programmes, new treatments and HPV vaccination. Developing countries have not seen the same drop in incidence and death rates, but this should change with improved access to the vaccine.

Ongoing HPV vaccine pilot programmes in 20 developing countries - including Vietnam, Uganda and Peru - are showing that the HPV vaccine is valued by communities and providers, and can be safely and affordably delivered, even in the lowest-income settings.

Helen Evans, GAVI's interim CEO, welcomed the lower prices ahead of the Alliance's first pledging conference, which will take place on June 13th.

She said: "These are promising offers that demonstrate industry commitment to work towards affordable and sustainable prices for life-saving vaccines in developing countries.

"We congratulate all manufacturers who have responded to our call in the lead up to the pledging conference. We will continue to drive for sustainable prices, while ensuring procurement of innovative, appropriate, quality vaccines to meet GAVI country needs."

Sarah Woolnough, Cancer Research UK's director of policy, said: "This is great news and we welcome the announcement to make the cervical cancer vaccine more affordable for developing nations. Research shows the vaccine is effective in preventing cervical cancer and as a member of Cervical Cancer Action - which campaigned hard for this - we believe this commitment has the potential to save countless lives among the world's most vulnerable.

"This agreement also highlights what can be achieved when governments, health groups and the pharmaceutical industry all work together to help bring down the cost of cervical cancer vaccines."