Row erupts over study of HPV vaccine in 23 000 girls in India

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 02 July 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e4390
  1. Ganapati Mudur
  1. 1New Delhi

A study in India in which girls were being vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which had previously attracted criticism on ethical grounds, had no justification on the grounds of public health either, a team of health researchers in the United Kingdom has said.

The researchers, from the University of London and the University of Edinburgh, said in a review of the study that India’s surveillance system for cancer and its information on the incidence of cervical cancer in the country were too patchy to justify any further roll out of the vaccine.1

But the organisers of the study countered their criticisms by saying that the researchers had “seriously misunderstood or misrepresented” the data from the Indian cancer registry, and had belittled the threat from cervical cancer in India, despite the fact that deaths from the disease outnumbered maternal deaths. They also said that the study was completely ethical.

Two years ago, women’s groups and health activists in India had questioned the ethics and the rationale of the study, in which more than 23 000 girls aged 10-14 years in Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat were vaccinated against the human papillomavirus.2

The study, by the international non-profit making Programme for Appropriate Technologies in Health (PATH), based in Seattle, Washington state, was approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research and implemented by state health authorities using …

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