A vaccine with the potential to slash worldwide deaths from cervical cancer deemed safe and effective by US advisers is now just one step from approval.
An 13-strong advisory committee for the country’s Food and Drug Administration recommended unanimously that Gardasil be sold in America.
The recommendation paves the way for the drug’s approval – the FDA is expected to make a final decision by June 8.
It is not required to follow the recommendations of its outside panels of experts but usually does.
Pharmaceutical company Merck and Co says the vaccine, which blocks viruses that cause cervical cancer, could cut the number of death from the disease across the world by two-thirds.
The company is seeking to license Gardasil in more than 50 countries.
The vaccine is designed to protect against two strains of a virus called the human papillomavirus, or HPV, that triggers 70% of cervical cancers.
It not only acts against the HPV 16 and 18 strains, but also strains six and 11 which cause genital warts.
HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted disease, affecting more than 50% of sexually active adults.
Cervical cancer is the second most deadly cancer among women, killing 290,000 worldwide each year.
Early opposition to Gardasil was based on misgivings that it could encourage sexual activity in preteens and teenagers. That has largely faded away because of the vaccine’s potential for reducing cancer.
Merck said the vaccine could be used in females aged nine to 26, but would work best when given to girls before they begin having sex.