Merck's Gardasil earns high safety marks

Merck's ($MRK) Gardasil, the human papillomavirus vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, garnered high safety marks in the second large-scale study of side effects in the past year.

Despite fainting and infection--short-term side effects of the jab--the study showed no link to more serious health problems. The U.S. government-required study tracked 190,000 females in Kaiser Permanente's California insurance system for 60 days after receiving Merck's HPV shot. The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, showed patients were 6 times more likely to have fainted the day of the shot than in the following weeks and 1.8 times more likely to report a skin and subcutaneous tissue infection in the two weeks after.

Despite these side effects, the study did not detect evidence of new safety concerns among females 9 to 26 years old.

"The take-home message is this is a very reassuring finding," Nicola Klein, the study's lead author and co-director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center in Oakland, CA, told "Patients and providers should be aware to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for 15 minutes after this vaccine."

The U.S. government licenses two HPV vaccines: Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Cervarix. In the first half of this year, Gardasil brought in $608 million in sales worldwide, making it the third top-selling vaccine so far this year. Cervarix brought in $285 million worldwide, falling into 8th place for top-selling vaccines.

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Special Report: 20 Top-selling Vaccines -- H1 2012