Facing “very low market demand,” GlaxoSmithKline has decided to pull out of the U.S. market with the HPV vaccine Cervarix, a spokesperson told FiercePharma. It’s a move that gives Merck a stranglehold on the market as public health officials work feverishly to boost vaccination rates.
GSK’s last shipments were made on Aug. 31, according to a supplier note to customers. Last year in the U.S., GSK’s vaccine earned just £3 million of an £88 million ($107 million) worldwide total. That’s in comparison to Merck’s global total of $1.9 billion for the Gardasil franchise.
"GSK recently made the decision to stop supplying Cervarix in the U.S. due to very low market demand," the spokesperson said. "With another HPV vaccine available in the U.S., patients will continue to have an option to help prevent HPV infection. Our license with the FDA is still in effect and the vaccine has 107 regulatory approvals covering 136 markets internationally."
The move gives Merck complete control of the U.S. HPV vaccine market as public health officials push for higher HPV vaccination rates. A sex stigma, safety concerns, antivaccine campaigns and other factors have hindered uptake for a vaccine class once anticipated to reel in $4 billion to $10 billion by optimistic analysts.
CDC figures last year placed HPV vaccination rates at 40% for girls and 21% for boys, far short of a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services goal of 80% for both boys and girls by 2020.
To combat the low rates, organizations including ASCO and the National Cancer Institute have urged more vaccinations. In a joint statement, NCI’s cancer centers called the vaccines “tragically underused.”
Merck, for its part, launched an ad campaign to put the onus on parents to get their children vaccinated.
This week, a CDC committee recommended a two-dose schedule for the Merck shot; Director Tom Frieden quickly moved to make the change official.
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