FDA PANEL OKs CERVICAL CANCER VACCINE

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Merck's Gardasil, a vaccine that blocks viruses that cause most cervical cancers, has been given the green light by an FDA advisory committee. The panel voted 13 to 0, stating that the vaccine was safe and effective and should be approved.The FDA, which usually follows the panel's recommendation, is expected to make a decision this month.

The vaccine is indicated for the treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, particularly 4 strains of human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. A Merck official said that the vaccine could be recommended for women aged 9 to 26, but it would work best for individuals who have not yet had sex. The expected cost of the vaccine is $300 to $500 (for 3 injections given over 6 months).