August 26, 2008
When Merck and Co. introduced Gardisil, the media acknowledged that there were some concerns about the safety, effectiveness and cost of the vaccine, but the concern quickly died, and the media for the most part allowed itself to be sucked up into the excitement that finally there was a vaccine that could prevent cancer. After I wrote a piece addressing the issues mentioned above as well as Merck's lobbying and marketing blitz ("Making the HPV Vaccine Mandatory is Bad Medicine") along with several blog posts here (see below for links), I took a great deal of flak, much of it from feminist friends who wondered how I could possibly bad-mouth this pharmaceutical wonder that might save so many lives.
The answer quite bluntly had to do with looking beyond the very well-funded Merck hype and examining the facts. But beyond myself and a few others, the media did not make much effort to investigate whether the hype was justified or appropriate.
Last week however, The New York Times ran several articles by Elizabeth Rosenthal (here and here) that finally address the points that I had raised. Rosenthal writes that, according to the New England Journal of Medicine,
"Two vaccines against cervical cancer are being widely used without sufficient evidence about whether they are worth their high cost or even whether they will effectively stop women from getting the disease."