By Ed Silverman // September 14th, 2011 // 10:56 am
These are trying times for the Merck c-suite. For the past week, their Gardasil vaccine has been in the news every day, but not for very good reasons. First, Texas Governor Rick Perry is attacked by his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination for accepting Merck donations leading up to his controversial decision to unilaterally mandate Gardasil for school-age girls ( http://www.pharmalot.com/2011/09/can-rick-perry-count-texas-gov-merck-money/ ).
Then, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann not only lambasts Perry for the contributions and the fact that his former chief of staff was by then a Merck lobbyist, but she told the NBC Today show that one mother approached after her the debate the other night to say her daughter was vaccinated and suffered “mental retardation.” Bachmann then says Gardasil can have “very dangerous side effects.” The rhetoric feeds into the overall debate over vaccine safety. UPDATE: For instance, the American Academy of Pediatrics called her comment a “false statement” (see here).
But there is more. A group of parents who formed a non-profit called SaneVax to publicize side effect concerns about Gardasil ( http://www.pharmalot.com/2010/10/moms-ask-fda-to-rescind-gardasil-approval/ ) a few days ago announced that an independent lab examined 13 vials and found evidence of genetically modified HPV DNA, which the group asserts poses a potential hazard. A Merck spokeswoman dismissed the report, although by then, SaneVax widely publicized the findings and also wrote FDA commish Margaret Hamburg to again urge the agency to review the vaccine. (see this).