In twin votes likely to add considerable force to U.S. marketing efforts for HPV vaccines, an FDA expert panel has voted to back GlaxoSmithKline's long delayed application to market its HPV vaccine Cervarix to women and soon after supported Merck's application to extend the use of Gardasil to males.
Glaxo had originally tried and failed to gain FDA approval for Cervarix back in 2007 but was thwarted by the agency's desire to see more information on potential side effects, particularly a heightened risk of miscarriage. Since that time the pharma giant has gained approvals in more than 100 countries, while biding its time with the FDA. And while the panel concluded that the link between Cervarix and miscarriages is tenuous, the experts suggested a warning to prevent pregnant women from getting the vaccine. The panel vote makes it all but certain that Glaxo will gain final marketing approval from the FDA, opening the door to the world's biggest drug market and finally offering Merck some competition for Gardasil. Glaxo's shares were buoyed by the news.
Merck, meanwhile, is seeking an FDA approval to use its HPV vaccine to guard against genital warts in boys and men. The panel gave Merck its support, but there was widespread agreement that the use of an HPV vaccine for males 9 to 26 offered little protection against cancer, as HPV-related penile and anal cancer cases are extremely rare. The FDA has indicated that any final approval on Gardasil's use in males will require post-marketing safety studies.