By: Justin Healy
04 November 2010
The ‘Aviva Schools CCV Catch Up Programme’ launched on 27th September 2010 with the blessing of the Irish Minister for Health & Children, sees Health Insurance firm Aviva and “Infusion-Care” agency ‘Point of Care’ team up to target Irish schoolgirls aged 14-18 for injection with the controversial HPV vaccine called Gardasil. This “innovative initiative”, according to Point of Care ‘CEO’ Jim Joyce, will give these girls “access to the vaccine at an affordable price and from the convenient location of their school”.
The Silent Partner..
The silent partner set to benefit most from this scheme is Merck, maker of the Gardasil vaccine (and their partner Sanofi Pasteur MSD who market it in Europe). This programme will allow access to up to 150,000 schoolchildren, with the course of 3 injections priced at €299 (a €50 deduction will apply if the parents take out a health insurance policy with Aviva ). This is a welcome win for Merck, however minor, given that, according to CNN, Gardasil ‘has proven to be a marketplace dud’ and sales ‘fell off a cliff’ once word got out on the alarming numbers of associated post-injection Severe Adverse Reactions (including 80 Deaths) reported to the FDA post-approval drug monitoring system ‘VAERs’. In fact, Merck literally cannot even give it away for free in places like India, after one such Gardasil program was suspended earlier this year due to the post-injection toll of deaths among young tribal girls.
In the EU, pharmaceutical companies such as Merck & Sanofi Pasteur are banned from engaging in ( http://www.haiweb.org/04042008/20080307_HAI_Europe_response_to_the_legal_proposal_on_info.pdf ) direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs. In order to generate interest in a new drug or vaccine, these companies usually fund surrogates, typically a ‘Patient Lobby’ group such as ‘The ECCA’ (European Cervical Cancer Association), to publicly disseminate “information” which is selectively edited to highlight the benefits of the drugs and gloss over potential adverse drug reactions.By an incredible coincidence, the CEO of Point of Care, the agency promoting this Irish school ‘Catch up’ programme, and a ‘Regional Market Access Leader’ at Merck, are currently both members of the
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