GlaxoSmithKline has cleared a key hurdle for gaining wider use of its cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix, winning the World Health Organization's approval to offer the jab in developing countries. That official green light is a prerequisite for non-profit groups as well as UN agencies that want to buy the vaccine.
And Glaxo quickly followed up, saying that the company plans to explore new financing mechanisms that would ensure broad availability. "We're exploring a variety of distribution partnerships to ensure Cervarix will protect women and girls around the globe," Jean Stephenne, head of vaccines, tells Reuters.
WHO had already approved Gardasil and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, a broad umbrella group of international health organizations, has made access to cervical cancer vaccines a top priority. "We're very eager to offer women in developing countries these vaccines because without early screening, they are arguably more vulnerable to cervical cancer," Dan Thomas, a GAVI spokesman, tells the AP.
It's likely that Glaxo will work out discount prices for global health agencies and nonprofits, a common avenue for Big Pharma companies selling expensive therapies in poor countries. But of the 280,000 women who die from cervical cancer each year, 80 percent live in the developing world. Broader access to lower cost vaccines would save many lives.