Survey: U.S. females fail to finish Merck and GSK HPV shots

A mere 32% of U.S. females aged 13 to 17 received all three doses of the HPV vaccine in 2010, bad news if you're Merck or GlaxoSmithKline.

Merck's ($MRK) Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Cervarix both involve a three-dose regimen designed to protect patients from HPV, a sexually transmitted virus and the cause of virtually all cases of cervical cancer. GSK warns against any other regimen of the vaccine than what's on the label. "We also have no plans at this time to seek a two-dose indication," a spokesperson told Financial Times.

HPV vaccination is not mandatory in most of the United States as it is in some other countries, such as Australia. This means patients sometimes take one or two shots of the series and don't come back for the remaining doses. Receiving fewer than three doses is not the ideal, but it is better than receiving none, said Michelle Lally, an associate professor at Brown University.

"Since Gardasil is a 3-dose vaccine, it's important that people receive all three doses to get the best protection," Merck spokeswoman, Deb Wambold, told FierceVaccines. "We remain committed to increasing series completion rates for all three doses of Gardasil so that more people may receive the best protection from the vaccine."

The company does not speculate on future sales, Wambold said.

But Merck's market could expand by including the vaccination of males; Gardasil is already approved for men. In October 2011, the Centers for Disease Control recommended routine use of Gardasil for males aged 11 to 21, Financial Times reports. And this year, Australia jumped ahead of the curve and began a program to give boys the HPV vaccine. In 2011, Gardasil and Cervarix raked in $1.2 billion and £506 million ($795 million), respectively, according to the Financial Times.

- see the Financial Times story

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