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Call for cancer drug subsidy

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By Staff Reporter
  • Published 3.12.09

Nobel winner Harald zur Hausen, who discovered the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) that causes cervical cancer, has called for a reduction in the India price of the vaccine that combats the disease. He stressed on the need for government subsidies on the vaccine while speaking at a city event on Wednesday.

The vaccine — to be taken in three doses over six months by girls before reaching puberty — costs around Rs 9,000.

“The price of the vaccine is unacceptably high in India. The prices are higher in Europe, but for it to reach women in the lower economic rungs, the price must come down,” the German virologist said at a press meet organised by the Cancer Foundation of India (CFI). He will deliver the foundation’s inaugural annual lecture on Thursday and attend a symposium the next day.

The 2008 Nobel Prize winner in medicine said the vaccine’s price must come down in developing countries as 80 per cent of cervical cancer cases occur in these regions. Cervical cancer is the second most common cancer among women worldwide, with over half a million new cases and 2,60,000 deaths reported per year.

Zur Hausen said the price of the vaccine could come down through competition among private firms or through government subsidies “as is available in some Scandinavian countries”.

Inderjit Singh Sarao of MSD India, a subsidiary of one of the two companies marketing the vaccine worldwide, said certain constraints had pushed up the price. “Bringing the price down is important but at the moment we are more focused on spreading awareness about the disease,” he said.