Pharmaceutical companies Merck, a GBCHealth member, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced last week that they would cut the prices of the cervical cancer vaccines they produce to under $5 per dose in the world’s poorest countries. This is a significant move that could expand access to preventative care for millions of girls.
While cases of fatal cervical cancer are rare in wealthy countries, the disease kills approximately 275,000 women per year in poor countries, according to The New York Times. The price reduction could have a large impact in these lower income areas where Pap screening tests are uncommon and the vaccine is financially out of reach for most.
Only Merck and GSK’s vaccines, which protect against strains of human papillomavirus that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers, are approved by the World Health Organization.
GAVI Alliance, a public-private global health partnership founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, negotiated the price cut with Merck and GSK. Merck’s Gardasil vaccine is now $4.50 and GSK’s Cervarix is $4.60. In comparison, one dose costs about $130 in the United States.
“The low price will initially apply to a few million doses for demonstration projects in Kenya, Ghana, Laos, Madagascar and elsewhere, but Dr. Seth Berkley, the Alliance’s chief executive, said he hoped that by 2020, 30 million girls in 40 countries would get the vaccine at that price or less,” wrote Donald McNeil of The New York Times.