Cuts in Costs of Cancer Drugs Will Save Lives of Girls Worldwide

Cuts in Costs of Cancer Drugs Will Save Lives of Girls Worldwide

DRC. {Photo credit: Warren Zelman}Photo credit: Warren Zelman

Millions of girls in developing nations will avoid getting a deadly form of cancer---cervical cancer---due to a major drop in costs for two vaccines against cervical cancer. Merck and GlaxoSmithKline announced May 9 that costs for the vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV) would be cut to below $5 per dose.

Over 275,000 women die from cervical cancer per year in poor countries.

Merck’s Gardasil vaccine will cost $4.50 per dose and GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix will cost $4.60 per dose. The costs were negotiated through the GAVI Alliance (see infographic).

This is welcome news, with cancers and other chronic diseases becoming one of global health’s biggest challenges, moving towards the post-Millennium Development Goals era.

Drug costs are part of the problem.

The HPV vaccines require three doses over six months and must be kept refrigerated, so countries will need to strengthen health service delivery and supply chains as well as continue integrating cancer prevention services with other interventions  (watch Mildred’s story).

There have been other recent wins for cancer drug pricing. Last month, India’s Supreme Court ruling against patent extension for Gleevec was welcome news for the 50,000 people in India suffering from chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). For CML patients in rich countries, Gleevec extends 10-year survival to 80 percent. While the $70,000 brand price is out of reach for developing countries, generic versions are more affordable at $2,500. Indian drug companies produce generics that treat CML patients in other developing countries as well.