women tell their stories about ‘cervical cancer vaccines’
July 20, 2009 by Gertrude Green
Most of my adult life I have lived with the knowledge that I am at increased risk of cervical cancer. As a DES Daughter I have a lifetime risk of a rare clear-cell cancer of the cervix/vagina. This cancer, causally linked to in utero exposure to DES, is aggressive, symptomless and the usual Pap smear will not pick it up. I have to have an annual “DES examination” that involves colposcopy. (For more on the DES story: www.desaction.org.au )
In addition, also because of my DES exposure, I have a 4-fold increase risk of squamous-cell cancer of the cervix – the cervical cancer the Pap smear is designed to detect.
Since first finding out I am a DES Daughter (nearly 30 years ago) I have learnt to live with this risk, to put it into perspective and get on with my life. Part of this process involved becoming informed about cervical cancer by reading medical journal updates. More important, however, was the sharing of experiences with other DES daughters. In this way over the years members of DES Action have built up a unique knowledge base and “expertise” of cervical cancer, from the consumer perspective.
So when there was news of a “cervical cancer “vaccine being developed, we naturally were very interested and read up on it. However, the more we read, the less sense it made. It wasn’t a “cervical cancer” vaccine but a part-vaccine for HPV. The unanimous consensus we came to was “Why bother?” [As outlined in ‘Gardasil: All cost and no benefit.’]
We were very concerned about the “hard sell” the pharmaceutical industry was using to put pressure on the Government to have Gardasil listed on the National Immunisation Program.
But our greatest concern, based on our DES experience, was the lack of evidence of long term safety of the drug. Could Gardasil, like DES, be a time-bomb with serious, unforeseen adverse outcomes emerging months, years or even decades after the initial injections?
Here is an extract from DES Action’s newsletter DESPATCH, March 2007:
Gardasil: Hype & Hard Sell
by Marian Vickers
Last November saw the most extraordinary example of manipulating the media for commercial gain when CSL, which shares Australian marketing rights for Gardasil with Merck, orchestrated the listing of this new cervical cancer vaccine on the National Immunisation Program.
CSL’s initial proposal was rejected by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) because of “uncertainty about the duration of effect and unfavourable cost-effectiveness.”
All hell broke loose and the first casualty was informed public debate. What followed was emotive, sensational lobbying and political opportunism, culminating in political interference from the highest level when the Prime Minister, John Howard, intervened and effectively vetoed the PBAC decision.
This “decision-making by media” has compromised the PBAC and potentially Australia’s drugs safety system.1