Merck, Qiagen launch Rwandan cervical cancer deal

Mon Apr 25, 2011 2:14pm GMT

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. drugmaker Merck and German diagnostics firm Qiagen are donating millions of human papillomaviros (HPV) vaccines and 250,000 HPV tests to Rwanda to start a national cervical cancer prevention programme.

Merck said on Monday it would provide Rwanda with 2 million doses of its Gardasil vaccine over three years.

The shot costs around $130 a dose in the United States and protects against HPV -- a sexually transmitted virus that causes almost all cases of cervical cancer.

Genetic-testing specialist Qiagen is providing 250,000 HPV DNA tests for free during the first three years of the programme. They will be used to screen women aged 35-45 for HPV, while the vaccines will be offered to all Rwandan girls aged 12-15.

Mark Feinberg, Merck's vice president of medical affairs and policy said that after the first three years, Rwanda was committed to paying for the vaccine at a "dramatically" reduced price to continue the nationwide programme.

He declined to specify that price but said the firm wanted to make sure Gardasil would be affordable.

"We do not want the price of the vaccine to be a barrier for these lower income countries to be able to introduce it," he said in an interview.

Qiagen will also make its HPV tests available under a tiered-market pricing structure aimed at making its product affordable in developing countries.   Continued...

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