GlaxoSmithKline launched its cervical cancer vaccine Cervarix in the UK on Tuesday, pricing it at about the same level as rival treatment, Merck's Gardasil.
Both drugs have a private prescription price of £80 ($162.50) per dose, or £240 ($490.46) for a course of three shots.
Cervarix is also on sale in Sweden, Germany and Australia, Cervarix's first major market, where it won approval in May.
Both Cervarix and Gardasil have been touted as potential blockbusters with billion-dollar sales potential. The anticipated marketing clash between the two products is expected to be one of the most competitive the industry has seen.
Cervarix however has yet to be approved in the US and likely won't be until 2008, since the vaccine was only submitted for approval in March.
Although Gardasil has an early lead in the key US market, positive results from an ongoing head-to-head trial against Gardasil could facilitate Cervarix's uptake, according to a report from Datamonitor.
The primary objective of the randomized Phase III trial was to compare the immune response to HPV types 16 and 18 in US women 18 to 26 years of age.
“It remains to be seen whether the results from this trial will grant Cervarix a differentiation advantage to enable a competitive positioning and facilitate its uptake in the market,” Datamonitor analysts said.
Although the two vaccines are similar, they are not the same.
Gardasil targets four subtypes of HPV- compared to Cervarix's two, thus protecting from most cases of cervical cancer as well as genital warts, leading many analysts to believe that the Merck vaccine, with its first-to-market advantage, will win the majority of sales.