LOS ANGELES, Sept 23 (Reuters) - Drugmaker Merck & Co Inc (MRK.N) and diagnostics company Qiagen NV QGEN.DE announced on Wednesday plans to increase developing countries’ access to vaccination and screening for the virus that causes cervical cancer.
The companies said the initiative -- the first between a vaccine manufacturer and a molecular diagnostics company -- has a retail value of $600 million.
Merck is the maker of Gardasil, which is approved for protecting against infection with the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer and genital warts.
Global sales of Gardasil were $1.4 billion in 2008, with an additional $865 million received through a joint venture partnership with Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA).
Under the plan, announced at the annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, Merck will provide up to 5 million free doses of Gardasil and Qiagen intends to add to its existing 1 million test donation program by providing HPV DNA tests to screen an additional 500,000 women.
The companies said they plan to seek other partners to set up public sector cervical cancer programs, provide treatment, and support improvements in laboratory and vaccine delivery.
Participating countries will be announced once program details and implementation strategies have been finalized, they said in a statement.
Merck said Gardasil is approved for use in 112 countries. In the United States, the vaccine is approved for use in girls and young women 9 through 26 years of age. (Reporting by Deena Beasley; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)