Cervarix vaccine approved in Canada

A second vaccine to protect against human papillomavirus, or HPV, has been approved for use in Canada, CBC News reported Feb. 9.

GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine Cervarix is intended to protect against cervical cancers and abnormal and precancerous cervical lesions. It is for girls and women aged 10 to 25.

HPV infections are responsible for most cervical cancers and the pre-cancerous changes in the cervix leading to cancer, according to the Society of Gynecologic Oncology of Canada.

Health Canada's approval of Cervarix was based on a review of clinical trials on nearly 30,000 women.

The vaccine provides the longest protection against cervical cancer of any licensed vaccine, showing protective antibodies against the HPV 16 and HPV 18 strains of the virus for more than six years, the company said Tuesday. Other company studies suggest it protects against HPV type 31 and type 45.

Cervarix does not protect against warts.

The most common adverse reactions that occurred in 20 percent or more of subjects were pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, gastrointestinal symptoms and joint pain.

Studies show both HPV vaccines approved for use in Canada, Merck & Co's Gardasil and Cervarix, are highly effective in protecting women from more than 70 percent of the cancer-causing strains of the virus, the Society of Gynecologic Oncology said.

HPV usually causes no symptoms and clears up by itself. While about 40 strains of the virus are spread through sexual contact, only about 15 cause cancer in men and women.

In Canada, about 1,400 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed every year, and the disease kills about 420 women a year.

The rate of cervical cancer has declined by about two per cent per year between 1996 and 2005, a drop most likely related to greater Pap screening among young females, according to the Canadian Cancer Society's 2009 report on cancer statistics.

Cervarix is approved in nearly 100 other countries. Gardasil is approved in Canada for use in patients ages 9 to 26.