Study claims cervical cancer vaccine economically viable

A DRUG company study claims to prove it makes economic sense for Ireland to begin a national vaccination programme against cervical cancer.

Research by GlaxoSmithKline found it would work out cheaper for the State to pay €345 per vaccine than to fund the €10.3 million it costs to diagnose and treat cervical cancer annually.

The results of the study will be presented at a meeting of the International Society of Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research in Dublin today. A separate study is also being carried out for the Government by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics.

Cervical cancer is the second-highest cause of cancer in women under the age of 45 and rates have been rising by 1.5% annually in Ireland in recent years.

Each year about 1,300 women here are found to have the pre-cancerous cells caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) that leads to the disease, 200 are diagnosed with the disease and about 70 die.

GlaxoSmithKline claims its vaccine Cervarix, administered to pre-teen girls, could cut cases and deaths from cervical cancer by two-thirds.

The National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics uses mathematical models to measure costs against benefits but GlaxoSmithKline claims the cost of a vaccination programme falls within the guidelines that dictate whether a public health measure should be adopted.

Dr Jack Lambert, a consultant in infectious diseases at Dublin’s Mater Hospital, said it was essential the State’s independent evaluation be completed before a conclusion was reached.

But he added: “HPV vaccines have the potential to reverse the statistics on cervical cancer mortality in Ireland. Such a cost effectiveness analysis provides preliminary evidence that HPV vaccines are value for money in Ireland.”

A pilot screening programme is under way in the mid-west. Two cervical cancer vaccines, Cervarix and rival Gardasil, are available in Ireland to private patients for about €500-€600 per dose.

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