Raising Women’s Voices

Gardasil for boys and men?

Posted in Sexual health by raisingwomensvoices on March 27, 2009

There is currently debate over Gardasil, the vaccine that protects against certain strains of HPV proven to cause cervical cancer, being endorsed for use in boys and young men.  The vaccine has been available to girls and women ages nine and over since its FDA approval in 2006 and, in December 2008, Merck applied for FDA approval for use in boys and men ages nine to 26.  In men, Gardasil would aim to protect against genital warts and less common cancers, such as penile, anal, throat and mouth, that HPV can cause.

As the Washington Post reports, the discussion “illustrates the complex interplay of political, economic, scientific, regulatory and social factors that increasingly influence decisions about new types of medical care.”  The decision is primarily being based on a cost-benefit analysis of endorsing the vaccine, priced at $500 for a series of three shots, for both males and females.  The CDC committee overseeing the issue will meet again in June to review the findings.  The centrality of cost effectiveness, as opposed to public health benefits, in the decisionmaking is a point of controversy in itself.

Gregory Zimet, a professor of pediatrics and psychology at Indiana University, said that although the cost-effectiveness studies are “really important,” he does not believe they should be the “sole driver of public health policy.” He said Gardasil “principally benefits women’s health,” adding, “I wonder if it was the reverse, and there was a vaccine for women that helped prevent prostate cancer in men, this would be as much of an issue.”

For more in-depth analysis of the issue, see The Daily Women’s Health Policy Report.

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