By Mathew Arnold
Roche, which is launching an HPV test, is sponsoring a blog by a UK healthcare reporter chronicling the process of getting a pap smear.
Brighton-based journalist Nikki Bayley aims to raise awareness of cervical cancer and the importance of screening with the blog, titled My Diary From Down Under (she also Tweets at @nikkibayley). There’s no branding on the blog, a homespun-feeling affair featuring humorous anecdotes and tips — though you can read about the Roche test on the About page, which carries a disclaimer noting that the blogger is paid by Roche (“but the views are mine”), and advises that: “Healthcare company Roche has developed an HPV test which screens for the high-risk types of HPV, and yes, you can access that test.” The blog is also endorsed by charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust.
[Note from SaneVax: We believe this sets a very dangerous precedent. Not only do medical consumers need to analyze a barrage of advertisements trying to convince them they need the latest ‘wonder drug,’ now they must also be aware that the local neighborhood blogger is actually financed by the pharmaceutical industry and may, or may not be presenting all of the facts.
For instance, does the blogger above indicate anywhere that the Roche HPV test is known to produce a high rate of false positive results? Does the blog indicate that the Roche HPV test does not include DNA sequencing – the only reliable way to identify what genotypes of HPV are present? Does the blog mention that both CDC officials and medical training textbooks are both on record as saying DNA sequencing is the ‘gold standard’ for HPV testing? Probably not.]