Rethinking Healthcare

HPV shot recommended for boys

HPV shot recommended for boys

Posting in Cancer

Merck and Co's HPV vaccine Gardasil gets a boost in a new market, thanks to the American Academy of Pediatric's recommendation for the vaccine in boys as young as eleven years old.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a statement recommending Merck & Co's Gardasil vaccine for boys 11 and older, Reuters reports.

The vaccine, originally approved only for use in females in 2006, protects against the types of Human Papilomavirus (HPV) infection responsible for most cervical cancers.

About half the U.S. population will become infected with HPV at some point in their lives. Researchers link the virus to roughly 7,000 cases of cancer in men and 15,000 cases of cancer in women in the U.S. every year.

In clinical studies Merck and Co. has shown that Gardasil protects boys against genital warts and anal cancer, but only partially. The AAP points out that these vaccinations have a wider affect when considering the protection they may offer future female sexual partners.

Some physicians have doubted whether the $360 vaccine makes financial sense for males.

"The greatest benefit [of Gardasil] in terms of health care costs is with decreasing cervical cancer and cervical abnormalities. Men don't have a cervix," says Dr. Diane Solomon of the National Cancer Institute. She adds that the benefits of protecting males against genital warts and anal cancer don't bring overall health care costs down enough to justify Gardasil's price.

The AAP recommendation (pdf) could prove a boon for Merck and Co. Gardasil sales started out promisingly, hitting $1.1 million in its first nine months on the market, but in recent years income from the drug has flattened. By marketing the vaccine to males, Merck and Co. potentially doubles its customer base.

Image: naturthink

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Audrey Quinn

Contributing Writer

Audrey Quinn is a Brooklyn-based multimedia journalist focused on health, tech and the economy. Her radio stories can be heard on Marketplace, Studio 360, PRI's The World, NPR's Latino USA, Deutsche Welle Radio and The Believer Magazine podcast. In addition to her work with CBS Interactive she produces multimedia science stories for online publications and is a teaching assistant at the Transom Story Workshop. Her investigative work has been awarded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Nation Institute’s Investigative Fund. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure