Merck CEO isn't sweating the new HPV vax competition

The long-awaited endorsement of GlaxoSmithKline's HPV vaccine Cervarix is widely expected to pave a short path to formal FDA approval. But Merck isn't sounding all that concerned that its vaccine, Gardasil, will finally face head-to-head competition in the world's richest drug market.

"With the profile of the vaccine and the head start we have, it should be an advantage for us," Merck CEO Richard Clark told Reuters. "We are very comfortable with Gardasil's profile. In the parts of the world where physicians have the choice between two HPV vaccines, in a substantial majority of cases Gardasil is chosen. The market share in Europe for Gardasil is around 78 percent."

Glaxo says that it expects a final decision on Cervarix as early as this month. But rather than start defending the market it already has, Merck has been pursuing the controversial strategy of gaining expanded approval to cover older women and males. "There is still a tremendous opportunity for HPV, for Gardasil, not only in the United States but on a global basis," he tells the wire service.

- check out the story from Reuters