A doctor expressed his opinions regarding the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination chosen by the United Kingdom for its immunization program, according to an opinion piece released on October 24, 2008 in BMJ.

A general practitioner and and broadcaster, Phil Hammond claims that even doctors will choose Gardasil for their own children over the government’s choice, Cervarix. He agrees with the opinion, citing Peter Greenhouse, a sexual health consultant: “You’d be mad not to protect your daughter against genital warts if you can afford to,” and choosing to vaccinate his own children with Gardasil.

He points out that both vaccines show similar efficacy against the strains of HPV that cause most forms of cervical cancer. However, only Gardasil protects from 90% of genital warts. In England, there are 100,000 new cases of genital warts each year, and condoms only reduce transmission up to 50%. As a result, Gardasil vaccination is the superior prophylactic, and most doctors, he writes, would recommend Gardasil over the alternative Cervarix.

However, Gardasil is only available to patients privately, and costs £350 to £400 ($550 to $650 USD), a price that most parents cannot accommodate. He argues that this gives the patients very little choice in the vaccine they receive. Additionally, the National Health Service (NHS) has not given appropriate information about both vaccines, with Gardasil receiving no attention on the websites of NHS choices or NHS vaccination.

The choice appears to have been made for financial reasons. However, the current cost of treating genital warts in England was estimated as £23 million ($36 million USD) per year. This means that, within 3 or 4 years, the use of Gardasil would begin to repay its initially high cost.

Dr. Hammond voices the opinion that for any licensed treatment, the public should be informed with rapid, simple, unbiased information regarding efficacy and safety. He claims that the genital warts lobby is simply undercover, “but if it was breast cancer, there would doubtless be an industry supported march on Downing Street…There are no letters to the Times, and warts have never made it to the cover of the Mail.”

(Not) warts and all
Phil Hammond
BMJ 2008;337:a2186
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Written by Anna Sophia McKenney