Study: Gardasil not as cost-effective for boys

Merck's quest to expand the use of Gardasil to boys may have hit a snag. A new study by Harvard researchers found that vaccinating all boys with the human papillomavirus shot may be less cost-effective than for girls, Bloomberg reports. The improvements in quality and length of life aren't as marked in boys as in girls, the study found, and its authors recommended that health officials focus on vaccinating girls against HPV.

Merck, however, has done its own analysis of the numbers, looking at boys and young men up to age 26. HPV causes cancers of the anus and penis, along with the cervix, and vaccinating males may not only prevent their illness but curtail the spread to women. Plus, Gardasil protects against strains of HPV that cause genital warts, which affect men as well as women, the company points out.

The Harvard analysis was presented to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which plans to vote in October on Gardasil use in boys. That choice is key for Merck, which has seen Gardasil sales decline as its pool of yet-to-be-vaccinated girls shrinks. If the shot were approved for boys, more than 350,000 might get the vaccine within 12 months, and more than 1 million a year by 2011, an analyst predicted last year.

- read the Bloomberg story