doc martens floral Laura Bush and the Marketing of Merck
CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, was raising eyebrows five months before he bungled his fact checking segment on Michael Moore’s health care documentary, “Sicko,” leaving Moore and many of CNN’s viewers questioning Gupta’s journalistic integrity. Writing on his CNN blog on February 28, 2007, Dr. Gupta endorsed Merck’s controversial and scientifically challenged vaccine for girls and young women, Gardasil, without shedding any light on the incestuous relationship he has with Merck.
“As a doctor, and parent, I would recommend the vaccine for my daughters. I feel the ability to protect them in any way, including from cancer, is my primary obligation.” (1)
The vaccine is being touted by Dr. Gupta, First Lady Laura Bush, and nonprofit groups funded by Merck as a means of preventing cervical cancer. In fact, however, its clinical trials never tested for preventing cervical cancer. The vaccine was tested for preventing pre cancerous lesions associated with two strains of Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. Since these lesions can take 12 to 20 years to develop into cervical cancer and the clinical trials lasted less than five years, medical experts warn that the jury is still out on what impact this vaccine might have on cervical cancer rates.
The results of Merck’s clinical trials showed the efficacy of the vaccine was “modest,” even for preventing pre cancerous lesions, among a general population of young women, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. (2)
This might have been enough to kill the idea of mass inoculations with the vaccine had Merck released its final clinical trial data to peer reviewed journals in a timely fashion. Instead, it launched three ad and marketing campaigns that fostered the false impression that this vaccine had been proven to prevent cervical cancer along with a public relations blitz that stretched from California to Paris and involved payments to journalists. Only then, after the Food and Drug Administration had approved the drug, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recommended it for broad use, and questions grew in the press as to why this “miracle breakthrough” had not been peer reviewed, did Merck finally release its late phase trial data.
Eleven and twelve year old girls, the very target of proposed mandatory vaccination by Merck, were never tested at all for efficacy in pre licensing clinical trials. Merck simply decided that the bodies of prepubescent girls would react the same as mature women to the vaccine. The FDA was fully aware of this when they licensed the vaccine for potentially millions of prepubescent girls, requiring only that post licensing studies be done for efficacy and safety on these children after they were injected with the drug. (3)
Dr. Gupta began his on air promotions for Gardasil eight months before the vaccine was vetted and approved by the FDA. Here’s a segment from a “CNN Live Today” broadcast of October 6, 2005:
“GUPTA: The vaccine is called Gardasil, and Merck and Company Inc., the manufacturer, says it plans to apply for a license before the end of the year. Now, if approved, this vaccine may become extremely common, recommended to all women in their teenage years before they become sexually active. Rose Dennis had no such option. She had to endure a hysterectomy, chemotherapy and radiation to become cancer free. For her, and possibly thousands of others, a vaccine would make all the difference.” (4)
Dr. Gupta continued over the ensuing months to promote Gardasil. Here’s an excerpt from the “Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees” broadcast on June 29, 2006:
“GUPTA: Now there is a way to prevent the virus from ever taking hold in the first place. It’s a vaccine. Typically, you think of vaccines for the measles or chicken pox. But Gardasil protects you against cancer. Trials showed the vaccine could lower cervical cancer rates by 70 percent.” (5)
The clinical trials for Gardasil showed no such thing. (6) Even Merck is not making this wild and unsupported claim.
On May 17, 2007, CNN aired an interview between Dr. Gupta and First Lady Laura Bush. (7) Video Clip. The First Lady endorses mass inoculations of children with Gardasil on the basis that it will protect them later in life against cervical cancer. Gupta does not challenge her on the fact that there is zero evidence that the vaccine provides such long term protection. The vaccine’s own researcher acknowledges this. (8)
Would any of the following information have been relevant for Dr. Department of Justice over Vioxx marketing; a scheme that concealed tens of thousands of heart attacks and strokes caused by its last blockbuster drug, Vioxx. Additionally, the company reported it “has also been named as a defendant in separate lawsuits brought by the Attorneys General of Alaska, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Texas and Utah. These actions allege that the Company misrepresented the safety of Vioxx.” (9)