Glaxo cervical cancer shot approved in Australia

(Adds background on EU and U.S. applications, Merck’s Gardasil)

LONDON, May 21 (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline Plc GSK.L said on Monday that Australia had become the first major country to approve its new cervical cancer vaccine, Cervarix. Europe's biggest drugmaker said Cervarix, one of its biggest new drug hopes, had been approved for use in women aged 10 to 45 years old.

Glaxo expects to launch Cervarix in Europe later this year but it may not get to market in the United States before 2008.

Cervarix will compete with Merck & Co. Inc.'s MRK.N Gardasil, which is already widely available worldwide. Despite that lag Glaxo is confident Cervarix can still carve out a substantial business, especially in treating older women.

Both vaccines protect against cancer-causing strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV). They are expected to create a multibillion-dollar market, although most analysts think Merck’s first-mover advantage will win it the lion’s share.

((Reporting by Mark Potter and Ben Hirschler, Editing by Mike Elliott

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