October 23, 2009
Gardasil Shows Why Government Health Care is DangerousBy Duncan Maxwell Anderson
Gardasil has to be the perfect drug for the brave new world of ObamaCare, in a 1984 kind of way. Made by Merck & Co., it was approved in 2006 for use against venereal disease in young girls. Here's why it's so culturally suited for hope and change -- and such a perfect example of why you don't want the government in your medicine chest:
1) Gardasil has owed most of its success to the fact that government agencies have been subsidizing its sales, recommending its use, and even talking about requiring it.
2) Administered to girls as young as nine, it seems likely to help them grow up feeling ever so much safer about "safe sex." They'll be freer to rebel against bad old, religion-based morality, and more inclined to bond (as it were) with peers, school, the state and charismatic politicians who are always repeating themselves.
3) Best of all, it now appears that Gardasil doesn't work.
Gardasil was promoted as the first vaccine against cancer, since it works against human papilloma virus (HPV), which is believed to instigate the growth of cancerous cells in a woman's cervix. But since it was first hurriedly approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Gardasil has been dogged by criticism that it hasn't been adequately tested, and by persistent reports of side effects, including deaths. So has a similar drug, Cervarix, made by GlaxoSmith-Kline.
As news of the risks has come out, the reply from Gardasil's pharma-industry supporters has been to denounce "fear-mongering," and to reiterate that the drug will reduce the cervical cancer rate in America. Alas, a presentation at a conference by one of Merck's top researchers on October 2 appears to show otherwise. Here is a link to an article by Steven W. Mosher and Joan Robinson of the Population Research Institute (PRI), commenting on the talk by Merck consultant Dr. Diane Harper, who helped develop both Gardasil and Cervarix.
Dr. Harper has on several occasions criticized the rush to market of both HPV drugs. But her October 2 talk at the Fourth International Public Conference on Vaccination in Reston, Va., was framed as emphasizing the benefits of Gardasil. Nevertheless, according to PRI, her presentation openly stated that, 26 million vaccinations after its debut, Gardasil will have no effect on the rate of cervical cancer in the U.S. HPV, the infection that Gardasil can prevent, is rare, usually heals itself, and testing and treatment in the U.S. are very effective in keeping cervical cancer a rare event.
Okay, you say, Gardasil may not be effective. Neither is brushing your teeth with mayonnaise. But can it hurt? All the girls in my daughter's class are getting their shots, and I don't want her to feel left out.
Yes, it can hurt, according to Dr. Harper herself, who spoke out for better disclosure about the drug's risks earlier this year. PRI's Joan Lewis adds: "To date, 15,037 girls have officially reported adverse side effects from Gardasil to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). These adverse effects include Guilliane Barre, lupus, seizures, paralysis, blood clots, brain inflammation and many others. The CDC acknowledges that there have been 44 reported deaths."
Merck's Dr. Harper told CBS News that a girl is more likely to die from an adverse reaction to Gardasil than from cervical cancer.
What would be the point in promoting the inoculation of millions of girls and women with a useless, sometimes dangerous drug? And it really is useless: Merck's current project is to push it to pre-teen girls, but Dr. Harper pointed out that, once a girl hits puberty, any effectiveness of the vaccine disappears, and she has to start over again with the course of shots. And by the way, the efficacy of the drug in pre-teen girls hasn't actually been tested.
One thing we know about Gardasil is that each three-dose treatment costs $360, which has helped Merck a lot. It's been one of the company's top-selling drugs. That has led to political contributions by Merck PACs, which helped certain politicians. After FDA approval in 2006, the company lobbied state governments all over the country to promote mandated Gardasil vaccination for 12-year-old girls. Governor Richard Perry of Texas got into trouble when it was revealed that, right before he issued an Executive Order requiring all of Texas's 6th-grade girls to get doses of Gardasil, he and his political allies had been lobbied by Merck. He also received money from Merck's PAC. In the uproar, the legislature passed a measure countermanding his order, and Merck announced it was canceling its 18-state "Gardasil mandate" campaign. But sales of the drug are down this year, so the company gamely mounted a "Back to School" ad campaign. (Why? To coincide with the Fall Scholastic Sex Season?)
I guess this is one of those situations where the benefit of "saving lives" falls to someone other than the patient. Gardasil gives various government agencies and their friends a pretext to get involved in a whole new area: the private lives of very young girls. Your girls.
Groups like Planned Parenthood eagerly promote Gardasil. They urge you to bring in your daughter for her shots. That represents a sale right now, of course. But it could help bring your daughter back as a customer for contraceptives or abortion. You wouldn't approve, and you don't let your daughter carry around that kind of pocket change on her own? No matter. You don't have to know, or be consulted. Planned Parenthood can give away those services "free," but get reimbursed in full by America's taxpayers through federal and state grants. Everybody wins, except the patient and her family.
Abstinence, looking after our daughters' safety and dignity, and taking ordinary care of their health may be medically more effective than a vaccine like Gardasil, but they offer no benefit to drug companies, to drug and service retailers like Planned Parenthood or to the politicians who want to take over our medical industry. So to them, the choice is obvious.
That seems like an excellent reason to keep the choice for ourselves.