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.