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Gardasil, heavily promoted to doctors and touted in TV ads where young girls chanted they would be "One Less" case of cervical cancer, quickly became one of the few blockbuster vaccines on the market. Last year, it generated sales of $1.4 billion globally, despite competition in some countries from GlaxoSmithKline PLC's rival vaccine Cervarix, which could get U.S. approval this fall.
In the second study, two researchers at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons reported that Merck wrongly got professional medical groups to help promote its vaccine through speakers who didn't provide balanced recommendations concerning Gardasil's risks and benefits.
Sheila M. Rothman and David J. Rothman wrote that Merck provided educational grants to groups including the American College Health Association and the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists.
Merck's marketing strategy, they wrote, sought to "avoid limiting the vaccine to high-risk populations" and instead promote it for all women, and "secure government reimbursement and mandates," such as state requirements that schoolgirls have the vaccine.
They urged medical groups be open about their relationship with industry, not accept funding that requires them to report activities back to the donor and not operate speakers bureaus created around a specific health product.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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