Merck ($MRK) and GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) have spent years working to build the market for their HPV vaccines, and a new study may demonstrate one factor that has hampered their efforts.
A poll of nearly 600 doctors shows that many pediatricians and family practitioners are not strongly recommending the vaccines to preteens and parents. According to the researchers, 60% of pediatricians and 59% of family practitioners strongly recommended the vaccines for girls aged 11 to 12 years old. For boys in the same age range, 52% of pediatricians and 41% of family practitioners did so.
The vaccines are specifically recommended at the 11 to 12 age range because they're most effective if administered before people become sexually active, the Associated Press reports. According to the researchers, addressing doctors' perceptions of parental acceptance and concerns, among other factors, could contribute to an increase in immunization rates.
"Our results indicate that physicians themselves may need a clearer understanding of the reasons to vaccinate against HPV at 11 to 12 years old vs. later in adolescence and the reasons to vaccinate boys. In addition, physicians may need guidance on discussing these reasons with parents," the researchers noted, according to Healio.
The survey results are just the latest in a series of damaging circumstances surrounding uptake for the vaccine class once anticipated to bring in between $4 billion and $10 billion annually in sales. Inaccurate and incomplete web information, a sex stigma and unfounded safety concerns have all played their part.
In 2014, Merck said it would reach out to healthcare professionals, consumers and the public to outline the benefits of HPV vaccination after the CDC announced lagging immunization levels. GSK and Merck did have a win last year, though, when a European Medicines Agency safety review raised no issues with the vaccine class.
For the first 9 months of 2015, Merck's Gardasil and Gardasil 9 HPV vaccine franchise brought in $1.4 billion, a 2% growth versus the same period in 2014. GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix brought in $71 million in sales on the period, a 13% decrease from 2014.