Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
At least three medical associations promoted a vaccine for a sexually transmitted virus using funds provided by the vaccine’s manufacturer, according to an analysis being published in Wednesday’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The groups — the American College Health Association, the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists — promoted Gardasil, which protects against a virus that can cause cervical cancer, using virtually the same strategy that Merck employed in its marketing campaign for the vaccine, the analysis concluded.
“I think what happened here was that marketing and medical education got blurred,” said Sheila M. Rothman of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York, who co-authored the article with her husband, David J. Rothman, who is at the school’s Center for the Study of Society and Medicine.
Critics of Merck’s aggressive marketing efforts said the analysis is the latest evidence that the company is pushing the vaccine inappropriately.
“This clearly shows how Merck was able to influence opinion leaders in the medical field to promote the vaccine without presenting any of the downsides,” said Diane M. Harper of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, who helped test the vaccine for Merck but has criticized the company’s activities. “This shows how they were able to influence physicians.”