Study Says Newest HPV Vaccine Could Mean Less Cancer and More Healthcare Savings
Researchers from Yale University and Canada’s University of Waterloo found that Gardasil 9, the newest vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), has the potential to significantly reduce the rates of cervical cancer and death across the United States and decrease the nation’s healthcare bill by billions over the next 35 years.
The new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in April 2016, indicates that by preventing the HPV virus, Gardasil 9 is expected to lower the incidence of cervical cancer by 73% and the incidence of death by 49% — compared to 63% and 43% respectively for existing HPV vaccines.
New vs. old
Gardasil 9 can also protect against nine different HPV types, including five cancer-causing strains against which older vaccines do not provide protection. While the older version of the vaccine can attack strains of HPV that cause roughly 66% of cervical cancer, the newest version can prevent strains believed to be responsible for about 80% of such cancers.
These findings come during continuing concern among public health officials that HPV vaccination remains at unacceptably low rates.
At approximately $126 per dose of the three-dose regimen, Gardasil 9 is roughly $13 more expensive than the older version of Gardasil and $18 more than another HPV vaccine called Cervarix. Despite the higher-per-dose cost, the study found the improvements could ultimately lower the broader social cost of diseases and conditions tied to HPV.
Even at existing state-specific levels of coverage, replacement of Gardasil with Gardasil 9 in vaccination programs would result in a benefit equal to vaccinating an additional 11% of adolescents with Gardasil.
The study acknowledged that the higher cost might be somewhat of a barrier to the widespread adoption of Gardasil 9, as the added expense can add up over the long run. As an additional potential barrier, some physicians and health agencies may have amassed large inventories of the older, less expensive vaccine.
Getting the most bang for the buck
The study indicated that the greatest benefit would be seen if more states used the most current treatment. Additionally, the study found that aiming increased use of the vaccine in states where vaccination rates are currently lowest would lead to the greatest health impact In other words, the more a population is immunized against a contagious disease, the more protected are those who aren’t immunized — because there is less chance of an outbreak.