German Nobel winner criticizes big pharma

DDP/The Local
DDP/The Local - [email protected] • 8 Oct, 2008 Updated Wed 8 Oct 2008 09:00 CEST
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German Nobel Prize winner Harald zur Hausen discovered that a virus causes cervical cancer, and now he has criticized pharmaceutical companies for charging too much for the new vaccine against the virus.

The vaccine is “much too expensive,” the recent Nobel Prize winner in Medicine told German daily Frankfurter Rundschau on Wednesday.

Hundreds of thousands of women die of cervical cancer each year, he said, adding that he would be happy if the pharmaceutical companies chose to lower their price for the prophylactic vaccine against high risk HPV types 16 and 18.

The doctor, who went against conventional thought in the 1970s to connect the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) to cervical cancer in women, said he hopes that developing nations will be able join in producing the vaccine.

German health insurance companies currently pay for girls between the ages of 12 and 17-years-old to receive the vaccine, but zur Hausen hopes that girls will be treated “at age nine already, and also past the age 17 if the girls have not yet been sexually active.”

Men should also be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus, because they can carry the strains that cause cervical cancer in their partners, as well as penis, oral, anal and throat cancer in men. “Men are the biggest carriers of the virus,” zur Hausen told the paper.

The professor emeritus and former Chairman and Scientific Director of the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg will share the award with France's Francoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier, who discovered two viruses that cause HIV.

Zur Hausen, 71, will officially receive his portion of the approximately €1.4 million award on December 10 – the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death.



DDP/The Local 2008/10/08 09:00

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