Big drug company Merck has admitted that its aggressive lobbying campaign - aimed at convincing state legislatures like the Illinois General Assembly to mandate HPV vaccinations of young girls - was intended to boost sales of its Gardasil vaccine.
From the Wall Street Journal - Feb. 20 -- "Merck said it will stop lobbying states to pass laws requiring that preteen girls be vaccinated against cervical cancer in the face of a growing backlash among parents, physicians and consumer advocates. Merck's aggressive lobbying campaign was intended to boost sales of its Gardasil vaccine." HAT TIP: Dave Diersen, editor, GOPUSA IL
And from Bloomberg (by Shannon Pettypiece): "Merck Stops Campaign to Mandate Gardasil Vaccine Use" (story here)
Feb. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Merck & Co. will stop lobbying state officials to require that girls receive the company's Gardasil cervical cancer vaccine before they can attend school.
Merck made the decision after groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics said there wasn't enough state funding to pay for the vaccine or public acceptance, said Rick Haupt, director of medical affairs for Merck's vaccine division, in a telephone interview today.
Merck started a campaign to raise awareness of the vaccine among state lawmakers even before the drug was approved last year, encouraging them to require it for children. Merck decided in the last few days to end the lobbying effort because it had become a distraction, putting the focus on Merck rather than preventing cervical cancer, Haupt said.
"Merck's early push was not the way to go,'' said Larry Pickering, executive secretary of the advisory committee on immunization practices for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. "We want to convince people to use the vaccine because of its benefits.''
"Immediately implementing school laws is not optimal,'' Pickering said in a telephone interview today. "We need to gather more data and reevaluate to see whether this kind of approach is necessary,''
The vaccine is Merck's most important new product, capable of generating as much as $3 billion in annual sales, analysts have said. Revenue from Gardasil in the fourth quarter reached $155 million.
Not `Right Time'
"Many support the vaccine use broadly, but don't think this is the right time to engage in a school requirement,'' Haupt said.
Texas this month became the first state to mandate Gardasil's use after Governor Rick Perry signed an order requiring school-age girls to get the shot. About 20 states are considering legislation similar to that passed in Texas.
Starting in 2008, Texas girls ages 11 and 12 will be required to have the vaccine before entering sixth grade. The shots will cost the state $50 million the first year.
The Texas order allows parents to opt out of the mandatory vaccinations "for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs.'' The order directs the state health agency to provide opt-out request forms on line.
A group called the National Vaccine Information Center said yesterday that its analysis of reports to U.S. regulators found cases of serious side effects to Gardasil. One was Guillain- Barre Syndrome, a disorder in which the body's immune system attacks part of the nervous system.
Other Illinois Review posts on the mandatory HPV vaccine and Merck's involvement with the Illinois General Assembly: