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HPV Vaccination For Boys: Cost-Effectiveness A Major Barrier For Wider Adoption, Says Globaldata Analyst

2/13/2014 9:55:28 AM

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LONDON, UK (GlobalData), 13 February 2014 - While national health systems have been pushing to increase the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine uptake among adolescent girls, most of them have failed to provide immunization programs for boys as a result of the costs involved, says an analyst with research and consulting firm GlobalData.

According to Robert Wilson, Ph.D., GlobalData's Analyst covering Infectious Disease, two vaccines against HPV are currently available. These are Merck’s Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix, which were initially marketed as therapies against cervical cancer, with adolescent girls as their primary target population.

However, a greater understanding has occurred of HPV’s role in other cancers, including anal, penile and oropharyngeal cancer, the analyst says. It has now been acknowledged that vaccinating males could also protect this population from such conditions.

Wilson says: “Males act as a reservoir for HPV virus transmission, so vaccinating adolescent boys could protect unvaccinated females via the development of herd immunity.”

Some countries have already begun immunizing boys against HPV, including Australia, which offers vaccines to males aged 12 to 13 as part of a school-based immunization program. The US also provides HPV vaccines to adolescent boys, with GlobalData forecasting that half of the HPV vaccine doses delivered in the US by 2016 will be to males. However, according to Wilson, European countries have largely resisted calls to include males in routine HPV vaccine recommendations.

The analyst says: “In some European countries, the focus of HPV vaccination programs will likely remain on females. In France and Germany, for example, males are unlikely to be included in routine recommendations, especially while HPV vaccine coverage rates among girls remain low.”

Wilson believes that the most significant factor preventing the wider adoption of HPV vaccines among boys is cost, with one dose of Gardasil or Cervarix priced at approximately $142 and $128 in the US, respectively.

He continues: “National health authorities have limited budgets, and other vaccines that could be perceived to have a greater clinical benefit than vaccinating males against HPV might be prioritized by national immunization committees. “On the other hand, if the cost-effectiveness barrier can be overcome, vaccinating boys will provide an important opportunity for companies within the HPV vaccines sector to expand the size of the market,” the analyst concludes.

- Comments provided by Robert Wilson, Ph.D., GlobalData's Analyst covering Infectious Disease.

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