By Vaccine Exchange
We have written here before about the way in which Merck marketed Gardasil in order to maximize fear of cervical cancer – a disease that regular pap smears prevent anyway. Our previous post focused specifically on the ways in which Merck manipulated the information available to physicians. Now, an exceedingly interesting study just released in the American Journal of Public Health shows the extent of Merck’s involvement in influencing Gardasil vaccination policies through interviews of public health officials and legislators.
This new report focuses particularly on the effort to create HPV vaccine mandates in various states. As one interviewee in the study notes, these mandates are normally driven by the profit motive of the pharmaceutical industry: “Just about every vaccine mandate that we have lately has been the result, at least partially, of the drug industry’s efforts.”
It was no different in the case of the HPV vaccine. Merck worked to introduce legislation regarding the vaccine in a number of ways, particularly through Women in Government (WIG), a national nonprofit group of female state legislators who had already identified cervical cancer as a key issue. By contributing educational grants to WIG, Merck was able to get dozens of legislators to attend conferences on cervical cancer that were also attended by Merck representatives. This made sure the legislators received the most favorable information about the HPV vaccine while dramatizing the impact of cervical cancer – which is not as prevalent in developed countries to begin with.
According to the report, Merck lobbyists were extremely involved in all policymaking activities, even drafting bills for legislators to use. When they weren’t actually writing the policy, they often served as key sources of information to legislators, who were less likely to turn to public health officials for information regarding the vaccine. Unsurprisingly, as a result, almost all the policymakers interviewed thought that “in principle, a lobbying role for vaccine manufacturers was acceptable.”
Read the entire article here.