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Merck's HPV
vaccine in demand among U.K. gay men

Merck's HPV
vaccine in demand among U.K. gay men

Gay men in Britain are requesting treatment with Merck & Co Inc's new HPV vaccine Gardasil, with dozens immunized in recent weeks, a London clinic said on Friday.

Gardasil was licensed for use last year against human papillomavirus (HPV) -- a leading cause of cervical cancer in women -- but the sexually transmitted virus can also trigger anal and penile cancers.

"We started offering vaccination to gay men in January and recently we've been giving about 10 a week," said Dr. Sean Cummings of the Freedomhealth clinic in London's Harley Street.

Since many sexually active people are already contaminated with HPV, patients are swabbed before vaccination to determine which, if any, sub-types of HPV they may be carrying.

"If you've got a full house (of HPV sub-types) then there is no point in immunizing," Cummings said.

"The situation in gay men is analogous to the early stages of cervical cancer screening, and the rates of anal cancer in men who have anal sex are akin to those prior to the cervical cancer screening program, at around 35 per 100,000."

However, some experts said the benefits of vaccinating men were not yet clear.

The Terrence Higgins Trust, Britain's leading HIV and AIDS charity, said the case for mass vaccination in men would depend on the outcome of further clinical trials.

Gardasil costs 450 pounds ($880) for a three-dose course at the Freedomhealth clinic, which is highly regarded for its gay men's health service. (Reuters)

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