Cervical Cancer Vaccine–the good and the bad of it

Cancer, like all other medical problems is treated best and most cost-effectively with prevention. Therefore, it is great news that a vaccine to prevent HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) infection, a cause of cervical cancer, has been recommended for approval by the Food and Drug Administrations’s (FDA) expert panel—the FDA usually but not always follows these recommendation. A decision to allow marketing is expected by June.

This Guttmacher report outlines the world situation with cervical cancer. There are about a half million new cases each year with half dying of the disease.

In the U.S. there are 12,000 new cases each year with about 1/3 dying of the disease. However, each year there are “approximately 5.5 million new genital HPV transmissions representing about one-third of all new sexually transmitted infections” with an estimated 20 million men and women thought to have genital HPV at any given time. Access to PAP smear early diagnosis technology is successful in limiting the number of those developing the invasive dangerous disease.

The cost of this vaccine , $300 and $500 per patient, is prohibitive for people living in third world locales where yearly expenditures per capita for health may be as low as $5.00/year. As this drug moves to market the question will be how to provide it in the places where it is needed most.

The broader question here and most notably with HIV treatment, is how to bring modern medical technology to people who need it most. Our system of government sanctioned monopoly, i.e. patents, is not up to the task.

Darksyde at the daily Kos reviews the Christianist right’s changing view of this vaccine.

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