Vaccines group in HPV price talks with Merck, GSK

The global vaccines group GAVI Alliance is nearing a deal to add vaccines against human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer, to its offerings. The group says it's negotiating cut-rate prices for the shots, made by Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, so that they can be rolled out in developing countries.

"If applicant countries demonstrate their ability to reach girls with HPV vaccines, and manufacturers can satisfy the GAVI Board's requirements, up to a million girls and young woman could be protected from cervical cancer by 2015," the Alliance said in a release. By the end of the decade, the numbers could grow to more than 20 million.

The program hinges on Merck ($MRK) and/or GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) delivering their HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Cervarix, respectively, at a greatly discounted price. These two products are the only approved vaccines against the virus in the world, Reuters notes.

"(A)t least one" of the two companies has made "encouraging progress towards an acceptable price," a GAVI spokesman told Reuters. "This is a relatively new vaccine, with low initial volumes for GAVI countries and therefore high fixed costs per unit," the spokesman added.

Last year, Merck said it could offer GAVI its Gardasil shot for $5 per dose, or $15 total per recipient. That's far less than its $150-per-dose list price in the U.S., where uptake has been limited in part by cost. Meanwhile, GSK tells Reuters that it's in talks with GAVI, and says it's "committed to offering the lowest prices for its vaccines to the poorest countries." In the U.S., Cervarix runs $385 for a three-dose course.

- read the GAVI statement
- get more from Reuters

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