By Wendi Lewis
On first glance, a study published by drug manufacturer Merck & Co., in the New England Journal of Medicine appears to declare the Gardasil vaccine a resounding success. The pharmaceutical giant points to numbers that show its cervical cancer vaccine has an unbelievable 98 percent efficacy rate. On closer examination, however, perhaps unbelievable is the right word.
The study was published in May 2007, about one year after Gardasil was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug was approved for girls and young women, as protection against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, a sexually-transmitted virus linked to the development of cervical cancer. The 98 percent figure was tied to the drug’s effectiveness in “preventing changes in the cervix uses as a marker for cervical cancer,” according to a recent article by Discover Magazine blog writer Jeanne Lenzer, a medical investigative journalist.
Based in part on these claims of astounding success, the drug’s use was eventually expanded, and last month approved for use in boys and young men. The theory most popularly given for this is to increase protection for women. Protect young men from developing HPV, and you build in protection for their future partners. Not mentioned nearly as often, the FDA also cites benefits for men including protection against oral and anal cancers.
But is Gardasil really that effective?
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