Doctors do not back cervical vaccine choice made by labour ministers
GP and broadcaster Dr Phil Hammond, said he and most doctors he has spoken to have opted for Gardasil, rather than Cervarix, for their own children as it also protects against 90 per cent of cases of genital warts as well as cervical cancer.
Writing online in the British Medical Journal, he said the issue has been overlooked because genital warts ‘never made it to the front cover’ of newspapers, but if it were breast cancer instead there would ‘marches on Downing Street’ to campaign for the choice of vaccine to be made available on the NHS.
There are two different cervical cancer vaccines on the market, Cervarix and Gardasil, which protect against the human papillomavirus which causes the disease.
The Government has chosen to offer Cervarix as part of a national vaccination programme for all girls aged 11 and 12 with a catch up campaign for older girls.
There are over 100 strains of HPV and Cervarix protects against the two which account for most cases of cancer whereas Gardasil works against an additional two strains so protects against other sexually transmitted conditions as well.
Gardasil remains available but only privately even though most other European countries have chosen it for their own national programmes.
Dr Hammond wrote that with 100,000 new cases of genital warts in England each year and condoms only reducing transmission by up to 50 per cent, the far safer option is to vaccinate with Gardasil.
But, although Gardasil is available privately to parents, at a cost of £350 to £400, most will not be able to afford it, he added.
The vaccine choice could be a false economy because of the estimated cost of treating genital warts is £23m a year and vaccinating with Gardasil would have begun to pay off within three to four years, he said.
According to Hammond, who is a vice-president of the Patients Association, with the current cost of treating genital warts estimated to be £23 million, the government’s decision may be a false economy. Within three or four years the use of Gardasil would have begun to have a considerable financial payback.
The NHS offers no information about Gardasil, raising serious questions over patient choice.
The Government’s vaccine advisors said that if both vaccines were offered to the NHS at the same price then it would recommend using Gardasil because of the extra protection and because Cervarix, made by Sanofi Pasteur, has been chosen it seems the decision has been made on the basis of cost.
Both vaccines are listed as costing £80.50 in the book of licensed medicines but the details of the discount offered by GlaxoSmithKline to the NHS in order to get the contract, remains ‘commerically confidential’.