In the Blog

big pharma wins again

August 2nd, 2007     by Nicole Cohen     Comments

The government of Ontario just announced that it will spend $39 million to offer free, optional Gardasil vaccinations to girls in Grade 8. Gardasil, manufactured by pharma company Merck Frosst, is the commercial name for a vaccine that is supposed to protect women from contracting Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.

OHIP, Ontario’s health coverage, won’t pay for the vaccine, which is a pricey $400 per person! The high price tag for a drug that is being touted as a life-saver is not the only thing that has eyebrows raised.

An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal has claimed that there isn’t an “epidemic” of cervical cancer that requires such widespread vaccination (in 2006, about 400 women died from cervical cancer), and that there are other, effective and less risky ways of preventing cervical cancer that don’t require an expensive and under-researched vaccine.

The Canadian Women’s Health Network has also expressed concern, noting that very few young girls participated in drug testing and that the vaccine might lead girls and women to believe they don’t need to have safe sex or get regular pap tests.

Then there’s the link to big pharma and the industry’s history of questionable practices, particularly when it comes to women’s health (well documented here, here, here, here and many other places).

The Toronto Star article linked above notes that Merck has been actively lobbying Canadian and US governments to create school vaccination programs and that, following a federal government decision to fund a national vaccine program for $300 million, it was revealed that a former aide to Prime Minster Stephen Harper is a Merck lobbyist.

The latest issue of Bitch magazine has an in-depth, critical look at the HPV ad campaign that is well worth a read.

I researched Big Pharma a while ago for an article revealing the myths and big bucks involved in convincing women they need a drug to prevent “female sexual dysfunction.” This HPV campaign seems to be a little similar, a little subtler.

Tags: body politics

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