I can't believe I'm standing with uber-conservative fundamentalist Christians on the topic of Merck's new wonder drug, even if our reasons may differ.
Since June when a federal advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend all girls and women ages 11 to 26 receive Merck's new vaccine for genital warts, Gardasil, which in clinical studies proved to prevent cervical cancers by preventing infection from four strains of the human papilloma virus, I have been waiting for government entities to mandate its use.
Now it seems Merck is pouring its money into pushing its revolutionary new drug -- which, for the record, costs $360 for the three-shot regimen needed for effectiveness -- on state legislatures across the country, hoping they will mandate the costly prevention for all girls beginning at age 11.
Merck isn't saying how much it's spending on this endeavor, but one might imagine such non-disclosure could mean the grand total is a boatload. Why just image, if even a small percentage of states pass measures to require parents vaccinate their girl children against HPV, the company stands to have a lucrative payday ... at least until its patent runs out or until the drug is approved for our boy children and the process starts all over again.
Let me just get a few things off my chest:
I know that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world, and particularly devastating to underdeveloped and impoverished nations.
I believe Merck's vaccine is safe and effective.
I fully expect Ittybit to get this vaccine when she turns 11, even if I have to pay out of pocket for it (currently most insurance WILL* cover this preventive measure).
I think the idea that HPV can be completely prevented by morally responsible living is akin to sticking your head in the sand.
I think that discovering that cancer can be caused by a virus is INCREDIBLY exciting for the future of medical research.
Do I want government telling me how to raise my child?
What if I were afraid of the repercussions of vaccines on cognitive development?
What if I was convinced of anecdotal accounts of parents who believed their kids were adversly affected by innoculations instead of peer-reviewed research showing no link between childhood vaccinations and autism?
What if *shudder* I believed in my heart of hearts that giving her the shot would be akin to giving her the keys to a lifetime of debauchery and moral decay?
In short, what if I were someone else?
I suppose there are still choices I could make. I could pull my kid from school and take her education on at home.
Sure, I could fight the good fight and buck the laws of man. But should I have to, especially where medical decisions are concerned?
Mind you, I have no trouble with the use of the term "herding" as it relates to mass innocuations being the most effective way to irradicate dieases.
Yes! I think it's wonderful that this discovery has been made. I think it's a valuable health care tool that all people -- even boys when the drug is approved for use in the other 49 percent of our population -- should seriously consider. Like many have said, I feel there really ARE more pros than cons.
However I wonder if Gardasil, in it's current $360 form, will be made available to the developing world and those marginalized by inadequate medical coverage, where the need is arguably the greatest?
I know this issue may one day go the way of seat belts, the infant car seat and, most recently, the ban of trans fats in NYC restaurants, but I can't help but want government to make its recommendations, decide such discoveries are worth funding for those least likely to afford it, and then step off and let folks make their own decisions.
The last time I checked, the government has a lot on its plate. It has to figure out how the millions of uninsured in this country can get adequate health care; it has to deal with this mess it created in Iraq; the future of education; and what to do about global warming. I really wish it would make some headway on these issues before it goes and tells US how to raise our kids.
And to tell you the truth, I'd just feel a lot better if a single drug company didn't stand to reap the benefit.
This just in ... it would appear, according to Associated Press reports, that pediatricians and gynecologists from Arizona to New York are refusing to stock Gardasil because of its $360 price tag and what the doctors say is inadequate reimbursement from most insurers.
Surprise, surprise. ...
Merck is completing testing of Gardasil on women ages 26 to 45 and will apply for approval for those groups by year’s end; it is testing it in young males and could seek approval in 2008.
Rival drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline is developing its own vaccine, Cervarix, and could seek approval this year.