Since we already had our herpes news for today, here's your friendly HPV tidbit: many experts think that Gardasil, the only HPV vaccine currently on the market, is not permanently effective. Some researchers think that a booster may be needed after the ten-year mark. In addition, there is no proof that the vaccine works in preteens. Dartmouth gynecologist Diane Harper says, "The efficacy trials of this vaccine didn't include anyone under age 16." Some good news about HPV: though Gardasil still is not kosher for women ages 27 and above, the CDC is likely to approve use for women up to age 45 in the near future. Also, HPV goes away on its own 75-95% of the time, according to British research — a comforting thought for those of us without health insurance.
[US News & World Report]

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DISCUSSION

jennasauers
Jenna Sauers

@PaisleyPajamas: I'm no fan of Merck (my mother was taking Vioxx before Merck was forced to reveal its negligence), but the difficulties of carrying out trials in minors don't just create problems for Merck's drugs. Every US drug manufacturer markets a tonne of medications without testing them on every age sector. That's just the way the law and the FDA works.

Jerome Groopman did a piece in the New Yorker on this phenomenon a few years ago. It's hard and sometimes impossible to do a trial on children. But it's not hard to do an adult trial and get the medicine declared "safe and effective" - and then encourage doctors to use your drug off-label for children (or under-16s). That isn't Merck's or GlaxoSmithKline's fault so much as it is the US Congress' and the FDA's.

That being said, from everything I've read about the Gardasil trials (my university was one of the trial sites and I know several of the immunologists who were working on the study), the vaccine is safe and effective for women under 16 (and over 24, of course). Everyone agrees it's safe and effective in men, too - Australia's already approved it for 11-year-old boys. Other countries have approved it for women into their 30s. Nothing bad is likely to happen to you if you get the vaccine, and it will drastically reduce your risk of a serious kind of cancer. (The vaccine only protects against a few of the hundred-odd HPV strains, by the way, because those are the only strains that are linked with cancer.)

If I were a mother, I'd give my daughter the vaccine today.