Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gardasil Promotion Out of Line?

This week's JAMA includes criticism of education for Gardasil.
According to The Washington Post's coverage, Merck gave $199,000 to the American College Health Association, $300,000 to the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and $250,000 to the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists for education around the vaccine.
That would be OK except that the education followed Merck's PR spin that the vaccine is really a vaccine against cervical cancer, not genital warts.
Read more
That's not incorrect, really, the warts may lead to cervical cancer. But there is no doubt that focusing the conversation around cancer instead of a sexually transmitted disease makes the vaccination more socially and politically palatable. It's spin. Spin that impacts care. I've heard tell of payers covering girls for Gardasil (they can get cervical cancer) but not boys (even though they can get the warts and give them to girls).

One might hope physicians and medical associations and society could be above the moral and cultural politics. But science is part of culture and capitalism, after all. And arguments that medicine should or ever can be above it all seems niave to me. I think the criticism from JAMA is true but silly. How else do we think the conversation will happen? Where else would the medical societies get enough money to educate physicians about anything at all?

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