Cervical cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers in the world. According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the third most common cancer in women and the seventh overall. More than 85% of the global burden of cervical cancer occurs in developing countries and accounts for 13% of all female cancers. The countries with the highest risk are Eastern and Western Africa, Southern Africa, South-Central Asia, South America, and Middle Africa. However, two pharmaceutical companies are paving the way for huge breaks in the global fight against cervical cancer.
Recently, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline announced a deal in which both companies will provide the cervical cancer vaccines they produce to under $5 per dose in the world’s poorest countries. The GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization) founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in conjunction with UNICEF, negotiated the price reduction in which the countries will now have access to Merck’s Gardasil and GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix for as low as $4.50 and $4.60 per dose. Currently, the same vaccines can cost more than $100 in developed countries. Previously, the lowest price at which the vaccines were offered was $13 per dose. The reduction in price will have a huge effect in the world’s poorest countries where Pap screenings are uncommon and the vaccines are costly. The vaccines are generally given to girls ages 8 and over to protect them against the human papillomavirus that causes most cervical cancers.
“By 2020 we hope to reach more than 30 million girls in more than 40 countries,” stated Seth Berkley, the GAVI Alliance’s chief executive. Recent studies have found that new cervical cancer cases and deaths have significantly dropped in rich countries but sharply increased in poor regions. For example, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 22% of all cervical cancer cases. “Developing countries bear an increasing burden of cervical cancer and it is only right that our girls should have the same protection as girls in other countries,” stated Richard Sezibera, former Health Minister of Rwanda and GAVI board member.
Merck expects to supply around 2.4 million doses of Gardasil at $4.50 per dose to GAVI-eligible countries between 2013 to 2017. GlaxoSmithKline expects to do the same for Cervarix at $4.60 per dose. Ghana, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Niger, Sierra Leone and Tanzania will be the first countries to receive the vaccines at lower costs.