Saturday, July 22, 2006

Cancer Virus

Maia argues in favor of funding for giving EVERYONE the new vaccination against cervical cancer (the virus that causes it).

It sounds like a great idea until you see the messy details.

The bottom line is how many lives it will save and how much spare resources we have.

The problem is
1) The vaccination only prevents some strains of the virus
2) Only a small number of people actually die from this cancer so you are vaccinating 2 million people to prevent maybe a bit under 100 people dying.
3) The people they are currently vaccinating are the ones wheel it would be most effective so the remainder are the ones where it is less likely to be any use.

As a result it might never be worth total funding even if we diverted all our money into health. Some quick maths indicates that you get more "bang for your buck" by improving dangerous corners on roads or more advertising for "five a day" than by making this free for everyone.

With any luck our government does these calculations of resource allocation.

The one thing that would counter that is if there was a world wide plan to eradicate the virus, now that might be a good thing...


Blogger susan said...

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2:21 AM  
Blogger susan said...

Even measured only in money: the deaths may well not be the most important cost of HPV.

I'm not dead but I've cost the kind tax payers quite a bit to keep it that way; I will have had 10 or so colposcopies and a wide and deep cone biopsy by the time I'm discharged back to mere smears. That's hours and hours of a surgeon's time, an operation under general anaesthesia and a night in hospital. The cone biopsy has left me needing much more expensive care if I get pregnant again too.

You could probably have vaccinated all the girls in my primary school class and won out financially by only preventing this one's cervix from rotting before her mind, and I doubt I'm the only one who's got the problem.

I just hope it doesn't recur.

2:27 AM  
Blogger Maia said...

Genius they're not funding the vaccine for anyone at the moment.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Genius said...

the bottom line is that they have to consider the trade offs between whatever options they have (eg treating some or all peopel or no people).

there is also as helen clarke noted a certain game theory effect going on with the drug companies - if you are too knee jerk they will screw you for everything you have.

11:22 PM  

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