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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Creating A Panic for Profit

Merck Pharmaceuticals has got to have a board room fully of giddy folks these days. 20 states are now looking to make their human papillomavirus vaccine mandatory for 5th or 6th grade girls. Merck charges a mere $360 for the 3 shots that make up the vaccine, and they are looking at literally millions of doses per year being sold by government mandate.

It doesn't help when newspaper have headlines that say "Millions In U.S. Infected With HPV", but then in the fine print tell you that only about 2.2% of women will develop the type that the vaccine actually does any good with.

The Washington Post even carried a story with the headline "1 in 4 U.S. Women Carries Cervical Cancer Virus", that doesn't explain ANYWHERE in the story that only a few strains of the over 100 forms of HPV actually have been linked to cancer.

Cervical cancer isn't a joke, don't get me wrong. But HPV derived forms of it aren't horribly common, either, with only about 7,000 cases per year according to the CDC.

The HPV vaccine is the next Segway Human Transporter as far as I'm concerned. Something of limited practical use, but hyped by it's maker to a point that it gets a market by default. In the case of this vaccine, Merck has created a panic based on their faulty numbers on the infection rate, their own advertising, and the presses poor coverage of the actual facts surrounding HPV and cancer.

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