France’s health authority has plumped for Merck & Co’s Gardasil over competitor GlaxoSmithKline's Cervarix for its vaccination of 14 year-olds against cervical cancer.

Le Haut Conseil de la Sante Publique (HCSP), or the country’s High Council for Public Health, has issued a statement saying that it recommends a quadrivalent vaccine to the sexually-transmitted human papillomavirus that causes the cancer. By implication that means Gardasil. The latter, which is sold in Europe by Sanofi Pasteur MSD, a 50/50 joint venture between Sanofi-Aventis and Merck, targets four strains of HPV, and thereby offers the benefit of tackling genital warts too, while Cervarix targets just two, types 16 and 18.

The news from France is quite a blow for GSK, seeing as it got the green light in Europe in October and needs to catch up with the more established Gardasil. It will be interesting to see whether the UK follows the HCSP recommendation once further details of its vaccination programme are revealed.

Cervarix has even more ground to make up on Gardasil across the Atlantic as US regulators recently said that they want more information before approving the GSK jab.

New GSK CEO to stay in UK
Meantime, it is being reported that GSK’s incoming chief executive Andrew Witty will work out of the firm’s London headquarters once he takes over from Jean-Pierre Garnier. Dr Garnier has been based at the company’s US headquarters in Philadelphia.

A spokesman told The Times that Mr Witty will remain in the UK, partly for family reasons but would visit the USA frequently and the firm will continue to operate “dual headquarters” split between the two countries.