Anatomy Of A Scandal
"It was a controversial new drug used for a sexually transmitted disease."
In 2006, pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. launched a coordinated marketing effort for anew vaccine against certain strains of the human papillomavirus, or
, a sexuallytransmitted disease. According to one report,
“…hundreds of doctors and nurses in the United States were signed up asunofficial spokesmen for Gardasil, trained by Merck, provided with a multimedia presentation and paid $4,500 for each 50-minute talk, presented over Merck- sponsored meals. Many were paid for attending Merck ‘advisory board’ meetingsto discuss the shots
According to another repor
exposing Merck’s aggressive marketing efforts in Norway,
“Four of the experts who advised the government to vaccinate all 12-year-old girls with the HPV vaccine Gardasil have received money for research from theU.S. pharmaceutical giant Merck.”
As of May 31, 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports
that therewere 16,140 VAERS reports of adverse events following Gardasil vaccination in theUnited States, of which 8% were considered serious. Serious adverse events reportsinclude instances of Guillain-Barre Syndrome, blood clots, and in 53 cases, death.While those events cannot conclusively be linked to the vaccine, a controlled studyweighing the long-term benefits against the long-term risks of the vaccine has yet to beconducted. An editorial
printed in the Journal of the American Medical Associationasserts,
“…the net benefit of the HPV vaccine to a woman is uncertain. Even if persistently infected with HPV, a woman most likely will not develop cancer if sheis regularly screened.When weighing evidence about risks and benefits, it is also appropriate to ask who takes the risk, and who gets the benefit. Patients and the public logicallyexpect that only medical and scientific evidence is put on the balance.
If other matters weigh in, such as profit for a company or financial or professional gains for physicians or groups of physicians, the balance is easily skewed. [emphasis added]
Following a controversy stemming from the violation of India’s procedures of informedconsent, the Indian government halted
their HPV vaccination program.The growing concern about the drug led one former Senior Research Analyst in the biotechnology and genomic industries to pen an op-ed
asking publicly, “Will Merck'sGardasil HPV vaccine be its next Vioxx?”