The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has started a review of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines to further clarify aspects of their safety profile.
HPV vaccines have been used in around 72 million people worldwide, and their use is expected to prevent many cases of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer is the 4th most common cause of cancer death in women worldwide, with tens of thousands of deaths in Europe each year despite the existence of screening programmes to identify the cancer early. The review does not question that the benefits of HPV vaccines outweigh their risks.
The current review will look at available data with a focus on rare reports of two conditions: complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS, a chronic pain condition affecting the limbs) and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS, a condition where the heart rate increases abnormally after sitting or standing up, causing symptoms such as dizziness and fainting, as well as headache, chest pain and weakness).
Reports of these conditions in young women who have received an HPV vaccine have been previously considered during routine safety monitoring by the Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC), but a causal link between them and the vaccines was not established. Both conditions can occur in non-vaccinated individuals and it is considered important to further review if the number of cases reported with HPV vaccine is greater than would be expected.
In its review the PRAC will consider the latest scientific knowledge, including any research that could help clarify the frequency of CRPS and POTS following vaccination or identify any causal link. Based on this review, the Committee will decide whether to recommend any changes to product information to better inform patients and healthcare professionals.
While the review is ongoing there is no change in recommendations for the use of the vaccine.