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Selected news articles which highlight important policy issues.

News: Weekly Archives

News for the week of 05-19-2006

FDA panel backs key STD vaccine; Medical community hails 'breakthrough' in cervical cancer fight
Chicago Tribune, 5-19-06

Editor's Notes:

Amidst an ongoing flood of Vioxx litigation, Merck got some badly needed good news—and good press—this week when an FDA advisory panel unanimously recommended approval for its new cervical cancer vaccine. Merck's vaccine could slash cervical cancer rates around the world, particularly in developing nations where there is little access to routine gynecological care.

In a major advance for women's health, a Food and Drug Administration advisory panel recommended Thursday that the agency approve a new vaccine against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. The unanimous recommendation inspired cheers from the medical community, which said the vaccine could help save the lives of tens of thousands of women worldwide.

"This gives us the tools to begin to wipe out cervical cancer not only in the U.S. but across the globe," said Dr. Yvonne Collins, assistant professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The FDA usually follows the recommendations of its advisory panels. It is expected to approve the vaccine in early June.

Despite earlier concerns about the vaccine's potential impact on young people's sexual behavior, conservatives applauded the development. "It's a huge medical breakthrough," said Linda Klepacki, an analyst who covers sexual health for Focus on the Family.

For the cancer community, "this is a watershed event ... that we hope will help usher in a new era of cancer prevention," said Carolyn Runowicz, president of the American Cancer Society. Gardasil, made by Merck & Co., is the first vaccine specifically designed to prevent cancer, she said. The vaccine targets four strains of the human papilloma virus, the most common type of sexually transmitted infection. Two of the strains are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases in the U.S. and across the world. The vaccine is 100 percent effective against these two strains of HPV in young women 16 to 26 years old, Merck's research demonstrated. It also can help prevent genital warts, also caused by HPV.

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