(Adds company, analyst comment in paragraphs 5-7)
MADRID Feb 10 Spain's Health Ministry has
ordered hospitals and chemists to temporarily halt the use of a
batch of cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, produced by drugmaker
Merck & Co (MRK.N), after two girls became ill after a shot.
Spain's health ministry said health services would continue
to administer shots of the vaccine but ordered that the use of
batch NH52670 be suspended after health authorities in Valencia
region reported on Feb. 6 that two girls had become ill after
receiving the injection.
Merck markets the vaccine in Europe with Sanofi-Aventis SA
(SASY.PA). It competes with GlaxoSmithKline Plc's (GSK.L) rival
Both vaccines are designed to be given to girls and young
women to protect against cancer-causing strains of the sexually
transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV).
Sanofi Pasteur MSD, the Sanofi-Merck partnership that sells
Gardasil in Europe, said it and health authorities were
investigating what happened, but it added that an adverse event
after vaccination did not mean the vaccination had caused it.
"In both cases, other medical conditions (in the girls) have
been observed and are being investigated which could be the
cause of the reported events," said Sanofi Pasteur MSD, adding
that 40 million doses of Gardasil had been distributed worldwide
since its launch in 2006, without showing evidence of concerns.
Simon Mather, analyst at bank WestLB, told clients the news
was mildly positive for Glaxo, though in any case, Glaxo's
Cervarix shot had been chosen in 80 percent of recent tenders.
"Although millions of doses have been administered worldwide
without any side effects, it could strengthen Glaxo's claims for
winning future tender bids with its rival cervical vaccine
Cervarix if it transpires that batches or Gardasil are found to
be contaminated," he said in a note.
According to the health ministry, 76,000 shots from the
affected batch have already been distributed to regional
authorities and chemists, who have been told to halt its sale.
On Feb 3, Merck reported a 16 percent decline in quarterly
sales of Gardasil and cut its expectation for the product's
sales this year [ID:nN034901126].
(Reporting by Raquel Castillo; translating by Ben Harding,
editing by Will Waterman)