Merck & Co has presented data which demonstrates that its cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil may offer protection for women up to the age of 45.

Presenting at the International Papillomavirus Conference bring held in Beijing, China, Merck noted that in a study of 3,800 women aged 24 to 45, the vaccine prevented 91% of cases of persistent infection, minor cervical abnormalities, pre-cancers and genital warts caused by four strains (6, 11, 16 and 18) of human papillomavirus. Efficacy against clinical diseases alone without considering persistent infection was 92% and Merck noted that

The jab is currently approved for use in girls and young women ages 9 to 26, and any expansion would add a boost to Gardasil’s already-impressive sales. Third-quarter turnover for the vaccine reached $418 million.

Patrick Poirot, vice president for medical and scientific affairs at Sanofi Pasteur MSD, the joint venture set up by Merck and Sanofi-Aventis to sell the vaccine in Europe, said that "women remain at significant risk for developing HPV-related genital diseases, including cervical cancer, throughout their lifetime". He added that these new results suggest that “older women could also benefit from this vaccine ".

Mr Poirot stated that "based on the encouraging new results the competent regulatory bodies and experts will now have to define how to approach a possible vaccination of older women in the future". He went on to say that "until this is done, the focus of public health authorities would certainly remain on vaccinating girls and young women prior to exposure to HPV."