11 June 2006

Cervical Cancer Vaccine

There is now a cervical cancer vaccine available. It was developed originally by 2006 Australian of the Year Professor Ian Frazer, and is aimed at preventing infection with four human papillomavirus (HPV) strains --- two of which are sexually-transmitted and the culprits of 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, and the other two which account for 90 percent of genital wart cases.

The vaccine costs around US $360.00 or nearly PhP20,000.00 using the current exchange rates. The Australian biotech company which distributes the vaccine is set to receive a "$US10 million milestone payment," aside from royalties from future vaccine sales.

Said vaccine is recommended to be given to girls and women aged between 9 and 26, with a course of 3 injections given in a period of 6 months. Clinical trials have shown that the vaccine is most effective when given to girls before they begin having sex. Prof. Frazer added that girls who are between 9 and 12 years old have better antibody responses than older girls. The vaccine, however, does NOT protect women who are already infected.

Sa bayan kong sawi, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among Philippine females (#1 women cancer here is still breast cancer). Two-thirds of cervical cancer patients here are diagnosed at an advanced stage. Most of them die too, because of "inadequate radiotherapy facilities."

Why are most Philippine cervical cancer patients diagnosed at an advanced stage of cervical cancer?

'Several reasons are given ---

A 2000 descriptive study of the grim situation here showed that

Hah! With the present shift in careers of most health personnel to nursing and massive migration to Western countries, the high cost of the vaccine, the hopelessness, depression, ignorance, and fatalism of most Filipina cervical cancer patients, do you still see this fantastic vaccine helping most of the patients here?

It is amusing and ironic that vaccines like this are invented for those who need it the most, and yet, they will not get it.

My deep apologies if I ruined your Sunday.

17 reactions:

ipanema said...

Finally Gardasil is approved. Tests are underway in older women and in males, who can carry HPV and transmit it to women or develop penile and other cancers.
More...


After exhaustive reading all links, which could be summed up by the poor state of our medical health on all frontiers. The patient: with all the reasons given and medical health practitioners who lack resources to do more. How sad it is to find that most cervical cancers in our country are only diagnosed during advanced stage. This could be prevented by studying and improving on our attitude towards our health. It is futile to call on the government AGAIN to provide more screening in the rural areas. Who can help our countrymen? Since employees have the basic Philhealth coverage, is screening free? I'm not so familiar with our local HMOs.

Watch for more cervical cancer products in the future as GlaxoSmithKline Plc plans to apply for U.S. approval of a rival HPV vaccine later this year. The more the merrier, imagine if it's going to be monopolised by Merck at $500/3 shots? Who can afford? Big Pharma my foot.

Dr. Emer you didn't ruin my Sunday. You've just brought back old fears of pap smear. I'm one of those fatalistic people, I'll really on my stars. :)

ipanema said...

last sentence: I'll RELY on my stars.

bayibhyap said...

Didn't Anita Mui, the superstar cantopop singer from Hong Kong, die of cervical cancer not too long ago. I think she was in her late thirties or early forties. What a waste. I think this will offer hope to many women in general to live a life free of this type of Big C.

This is certainly good news. Is it already on the selves or will the patients still have to wait?

ipanema said...

It's just been recently approved Bayi, I'm not sure if it's shipped out to the markets. But I bet this will be soon. Business, you know, after what Merck suffered through Vioxx.

Dr. Emer said...

IPANEMA: I think Pap Smear is covered by PhilHealth, but the most women here don't like it because of its invasive nature. One non-invasive alternative, using acetic acid washings--- yes, the lowly vinegar--- can be done, but there are still very few health personnel in the provinces who are skilled to do this.

BAYI: US health authorities will meet again later this month to finally determine the definite vaccine candidates (age concerns, who should get vaccinated). This will definitely be available soon...and yes, Ipanema is right....the businessmen behind this product expect to make a killing and laugh all the way to the bank. What else is new? :)

ipanema said...

Ic. That's true doc. As you mentioned in your article, our health care professionals are driven out of the country by droves. So, there's no one left. Poor 'Pinas.

Can you imagine, if you're sick and the price, at 20k, what's left for basic necessities? That's why many people just lift everything up.

tin-tin said...

my family is prone to cancer, and since i'm a girl, i have great chances of getting cervical cancer, right? but 20K for a vaccine? hehe. i just don't know. maybe as ipanema said.. i'll just lift everything up :)

ipanema said...

It's sad to hear that tin-tin. In my family, it's hypertension from my father and my mother is an arthritic beauty. No HMOs will cover pre-existing diseases. So, one really has to be healthy and save money. Come to think of it, you work so hard only to save for your illness. What a life!

bayibhyap said...

Does an injection of the vaccine cost Php 20,000? If three injections are required costs Php 60,000, it's quite a sum for many Filipinos. But those already stricken with the disease have no choice but to raise the money. I am sure the price will fall over a year or two when similar products hit the market.

bayibhyap said...

As an afterthought on one of your points regarding the lack of proper facilities and trained personnel, Dr Emer, I must say the the problem is exacerbated by the widespread islands divided by the sea, making transport and communication a problem. Whereas by comparison, Singapore is only a small island and the use of facilities and equipment can be highly centralized. This lowers the cost and the government can then offer better facilities.

ipanema said...

Besides being a small country with better facilities, Singapore's economy is a lot better Bayi. Assuming Singaporeans can afford Sing$606 (equiv. 20K@33/1$Sing).

If you go deep down southern islands of the Philippines, how many can afford 20K vaccine when most of their livelihood is obtained from agriculture or fishing. People from the barrios or kampongs may own land, but this all they have. Sell it? I’m not talking about the landed people here, they can well afford. I’m referring to ordinary people.

ipanema said...

Let me share something that I unearthed from my files.


The international non-profit health group PATH, which plans to run pilot schemes in four countries, said there was an acute need for the vaccines in the developing world, where local health systems do not support routine Pap smears.


Cervical cancer shots for poor

nikki said...

I heard this in one of the conferences I attended that they were developing this vaccine pero sobra namang mahal! The common Pinoy cannot afford 20k.

Even vaccines for children are very expensive nowadays, ayaw na magpabakuna ang mga nanay. If you were made to choose nga naman between food on the table and vaccine for your child, uunahin ko pa din yung pagkain ng pamilya ko.

ipanema said...

That's true, 20K is really very expensive.

Now that is another sad thing about the choice between children's vaccines and food on the table. Kawawa naman tayo.

Dr. Emer said...

BAYI: You're right on the dot. Island fragmentation is one of the reasons cited by the authors of one study why diagnosis of cervical cancer is difficult here.

NIKKI: Ayaw na magpabakuna ng mga nanay? Naku...di ba yan ang bread-and-butter ng Pedia?*LOL* Seriously, I think na sa info drive lang naman yan. Of course, it will definitely be a welcome development if the companies concerned can bring the vaccine prices down.

IPANEMA: Sana isama tayo ni Mr. Gates doon sa project nya. Minsan kasi, if you check current figures for GNP per capita dito sa atin, medyo hindi na tayo nakakasama sa 'developing country' category.

ipanema said...

lol Doc, sabi ko nga, bat di kasama Phils. buti pa Vietnam sinama. Wala na tayo sa category na developing country doc. Never developed country na, di na makaahon. :)

nikki said...

Doc Emer, sad to say na tama po kayo na ginagawa nga po ng ibang Pedia na bread & butter ang pagbabakuna. No matter how many times you explain to the mothers the importance of vaccines, talagang they have no choice. Halos i-give away na nga namin yung mga bakuna, wala pa din talaga, mahal po kasi.