Merck Awarded for Building A Market for Gardasil out of Thin Air

Neon Tommy

by Susannah Snider

In 1999, Susie Carillo was diagnosed with the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cancer. The young mother didn’t understand what it was. “I didn’t know the seriousness of it. There was no information,” said Carillo, who was pregnant with her first child when her doctor noticed the infection. “I didn’t ask any questions, I just put it away.”

For Carillo, 30, living with HPV has been difficult physically and emotionally. Unlike 90 percent of cases, where the immune system quickly clears the virus, Carillo’s HPV didn’t disappear. Instead, Carillo, an office manager, underwent a cone biopsy, the removal of tissue from the cervix, which left her on bed rest for several weeks.
Returning home wasn’t any easier. Her husband blamed Carillo for the infection and she felt ashamed. Carillo eventually filed for divorce. “I’m still figuring out what I went through. It’s a learning experience for me now,” Carillo said. “My experience was horrible because I had to go through it alone.”
A decade later, Carillo’s situation seems unimaginable. Since then, information about HPV has flooded television screens, movie screens, and computer screens. Doctors stack HPV pamphlets in their offices and moviegoers may remember a 60-second commercial about an HPV vaccine before the Sex and the City movie in 2008.
So, what changed?
The FDA approved a vaccine against HPV in 2006 called Gardasil. To inform Americans about the vaccine, pharmaceutical company Merck launched an aggressive advertising campaign.

The promotion was successful. Merck’s marketing techniques even earned Gardasil a “pharmaceutical brand of the year” award from Pharmaceutical Executive for its “savvy disease education,” and building “a market out of thin air.”


Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.