Fear-Mongering Over Gardasil

In what could almost pass for a Merck ad, an NYT editorial today takes up the drug maker’s propaganda and glosses over all the evidence countering it.

Teenage girls and their parents need to read the latest government study of sexually transmitted diseases. The infections are so prevalent they are hard to avoid once a girl becomes sexually active. One in four girls ages 14 to 19 is infected with at least one of four common diseases. Among African-American girls in the study, almost half were infected.


By far the most common of the four S.T.D.’s was the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which infected 18 percent of the girls. Chlamydia infected 4 percent, trichomoniasis — a common parasite — 2.5 percent, and genital herpes 2 percent.

The study did not look at such feared diseases as H.I.V./AIDS, syphilis or gonorrhea, but the four it did look at are worrisome enough. Although most HPV infections cause no symptoms and clear the body in less than a year, persistent HPV can cause cervical cancer and genital warts. S.T.D.’s can cause infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and other painful symptoms.


The new findings strengthen the case for providing HPV vaccine to young girls and for regular screening of sexually active girls to detect infection. There is also a clear need to strengthen programs in sex education. Exhortations to practice abstinence go only so far.

Teenage girls who are sexually active need access to contraceptives and counseling. They need to understand that the numbers are against them and that a serious infection is but a careless sexual encounter away.

Look at the bolded part and remember what we’ve just learned: HPV does NOT cause cancer and the CDC knows it. Has known it for several years. Yet it’s still barkering for Merck and fear-mongering around girls having sex.

The agenda of the Bush Administration couldn’t be clearer: it’s terrified of sexual females and determined to promote Big Pharma profits no matter who gets hurt. The HPV Scam is a neat way to accomplish both objectives with a single initiative.

But we knew that. What a lot of us don’t yet realize is how far the Bushies have taken their hatred of science, how far they’ve gone to turn science into a political tool. The CDC used to be an independent, more or less trustworthy agency that by and large did good work. It has now morphed into just another propaganda outfit for the ideologies and biases of conservatives and the religious right. Since we know they know they’re lying about the connection between HPV and cervical cancer, there’s no other rational explanation.

5 Responses

  1. Drug companies often fail to clearly present the benefits and risks of the products they advertise, and it often isn’t until a drug is on the market and taken by millions of patients that safety problems emerge. The easier it is for us to report side effects, the earlier the FDA will be able to detect safety hazards with medications and take action. That’s why Consumers Union supports including a 1-800 number and web address in all TV drug ads, so consumers can easily report side effects. Think this is a good idea? Go to http://www.PrescriptionForChange.org and add your name to the petition in support.

  2. While I certainly have no objections to the petition, I must object to the assumption that drug companies or the FDA would “do the right thing” if only they had enough information. The Bush FDA has been a Big Pharma protector/enabler forthe past 7 yrs, and the pharmaceutical industry has proven over and over again that it can’t be trusted to protect consumers when doing so might hurt its profits.

  3. I hope you (mick) have studies that show that HPV does not cause disease or cancer. I am a doctor practicing in an inner-city area and see HPV-related diseases – warts, pre-cancer, and cervical cancer regularly. Numerous studies show this is a prevalent, damaging disease that affects a large percentage of the population. If you choose to believe the “conspiracy” theorists, that’s your choice – but I hope your invalid, non-thoughtful comments don’t stop someone who may benefit from this safe, effective immunization. Think about it – we now have a shot that can prevent cancer. By the way, I in no way support Bush or “big pharma” !!

    • Marc, I respect your credibility and agree with you about the author’s logical fallacies and his conspiracy theories about “big pharma.” However, there is a fear-mongering campaign presented by these pharmaceutical companies that do not offer all the information like the fact that vaccination are ineffective for individuals that have already contracted HPV, which is 75%-80% of sexually-active Americans or that 70% of infections are gone within 1 year and 90% of infections are gone within 2. This is no reason to ignore the 5% to 10% of infected women that are at high risk of developing cervical pre-cancer, but wouldn’t you agree that in the 15-20 years that it takes to progress to that point, that women can simply prevent their chances with routine pap tests? Also, as a medical professional, you must be aware of FDA’s tendency to push vaccinations on the market before they are thoroughly studied. Just look at the controversy surrounding the mumps vaccination causing autism. Oh, wait. That’s another supposed “conspiracy theory.”

  4. I am a teen and I just got the shot a year ago. Now i am mortified. This isn’t the only article on the fake shot but i also have read that it’s not only fake but also harmful! This is outrageous! Who am i supposed to belive? i know i don’t trust BUsh or the government of Canada. What if the doctors are told wrong. Someone is trying to fool all of us to make a profit. Am i infected with HPV? Does this make me more vulnerable to cancer? Please reply. I am a victim of this catastrophe that you can help by just saying what you know.
    Thank you.

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