U.K. drops GSK HPV shot in favor of Gardasil

It's official: The U.K. will drop GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) HPV vaccine in favor of Merck's ($MRK) competing product Gardasil. The decision comes after health officials added genital warts into the equation, giving Merck the edge. Gardasil targets four strains of human papillomavirus, including two that cause genital warts, while Cervarix works against two cancer-causing strains.

Health ministry officials told Reuters that the switch to Gardasil followed a competitive bidding process, but GSK says it bowed out when the tender specified protection against genital warts. Cervarix had been the chosen HPV shot since the vaccination program began in 2008, Reuters reports.

The U.K. decision is the latest in an ongoing horse race between Gardasil and Cervarix. Gardasil beat Cervarix to market in the U.S., posing a setback to the GSK vaccine, and that lead has continued ever since. As Reuters points out, Gardasil brings in $988 million in global revenues for Merck, while Cervarix sales were around $375 million last year. Gardasil is expected to reach $1.25 billion in sales by 2015, and Cervarix's sales are projected to hit $848 million by then.

- read the Reuters story