Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Merck drops push for mandatory vaccine

Wall Street Journal reports:
Merck Suspends Campaign to Make Gardasil Vaccination Mandatory
February 20, 2007 4:52 p.m.

Merck & Co. said it would 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, which received Food and Drug Administration approval last year. Gardasil provides protection against two strains of the human papillomavirus that are thought to cause the majority of cervical-cancer cases.

But unlike a number of other diseases that U.S. schoolchildren are required to be vaccinated against, HPV isn't an airborne virus that can spread easily in a group setting. Rather, it is sexually transmitted. Gardasil also stands apart from other vaccines that are compulsory because of its high cost: $360 for a three-dose regimen.

In recent weeks, opposition to state mandates has grown among parents who want the freedom to make such a medical decision on their own and are worried about exposing their children to the unforeseen side effects of a new vaccine. Physicians and consumer advocates have also questioned the need to immunize young girls against a disease that is no longer very prevalent in the U.S. and doesn't develop until much
later in life.

Merck's lobbying efforts have become a distraction from the company's goal of immunizing as many women as possible against cervical cancer, said Richard Haupt, Merck's executive director of medical affairs. Merck has "decided at this point not to lobby for school laws any further."
Merck's goal is making money. Merck was having a hard time getting people to voluntarily pay for this vaccine, so it was hoping that govt mandates would free up billions of dollars in govt money to pay Merck.

NY Times reports:
But Dr. Haupt said that Merck would continue to provide health officials and legislators with education about the vaccine and would continue to lobby for more financing for vaccines in general.

He declined to say how much money or staff resources Merck had expended in its efforts to require use of the cervical cancer vaccine.

The vaccine, called Gardasil, acts against strains of the human papillomavirus that account for an estimated 70 percent of the cases of cervical cancer. The virus, known as HPV, is transmitted sexually, so experts say the vaccine is best given before girls become sexually active.

The vaccine, which costs about $400 for the three-shot regimen, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June. Later that month, a federal advisory panel recommended that females 11 to 26 years old be vaccinated, although panelists have said that recommendation was not equivalent to recommending mandatory inoculation.
So I guess that Merck will be pushing for an arrangement in which the govt recommends and pays for the vaccine, but where the recommendation is not called a mandate.

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