Merck Lobbies States to MANDATE cervical-cancer vaccine forschoolgirls_AP

The Associated Press reports that Merck–the company responsible for the
tens of thousands of preventable heart attacks and deaths due to its failure
to disclose the cardiac risk of its now outlawed drug, Vioxx–is now
bankrolling efforts to pass state laws REQUIRING girls as young as 11 to be
vaccinated with its new vaccine, Gardasil, for the possible prevention of
cervical cancer in the future!!

What is worse than appalling is that Merck has not only hired lobbyists to
push for legislation that tramples on parental rights and responsibilities,
the company has also funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy
group made up of female state legislators around the country. 

It is estimated that Merck could generate at least $1 billion in sales per
year–at $360 for the three-shot regimen. Billions more IF Gardasil were
made mandatory across the country.

If we've learned nothing else these last few years, it is that the worst
adverse effects of a new medicine–drug or vaccine–are not evident when
first marketed.  So aside from issues of parental rights colliding with
industry-friendly government policies, the vaccine has not proven itself
safe and effective in the marketplace. Does anyone remember hormone
replacement and its broken promise?

Unlesss Merck and the government sign written guarantees that they will
assume all responsiblity for any and all adverse effects that may occur
after  being exposed to the vaccine, Gardasil, it is downright reckless and
irresponsible to adopt any MANDATORYpolicy.

Contact: Vera Hassner Sharav
212-595-8974
veracare@ahrp.org
 
 
http://news.bostonherald.com/national/view.bg?articleid=180060&format=text
Associated Press
Merck lobbies states to require cervical-cancer vaccine for schoolgirls
Tuesday, January 30, 2007 –

AUSTIN, Texas – Merck & Co. is helping bankroll efforts to pass state laws
requiring girls as young as 11 or 12 to receive the drugmaker's new vaccine
against the sexually transmitted cervical-cancer virus.
 
    Some conservatives and parents'-rights groups say such a requirement
would encourage premarital sex and interfere with the way they raise their
children, and they say Merck's push for such laws is underhanded. But the
company said its lobbying efforts have been above-board.
 
    With at least 18 states debating whether to require Merck's Gardasil
vaccine for schoolgirls, Merck has funneled money through Women in
Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the
country.
 
    A top official from Merck's vaccine division sits on Women in
Government's business council, and many of the bills around the country have
been introduced by members of Women in Government.
 
    "Cervical cancer is of particular interest to our members because it
represents the first opportunity that we have to actually eliminate a
cancer," Women in Government President Susan Crosby said.
 
    Gardasil, approved by the federal government in June, protects girls and
women against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, that are
responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. A government advisory panel
has recommended that all girls get the shots at 11 and 12, before they are
likely to be sexually active.
 
    But no state has yet to add Gardasil to the list of vaccinations
youngsters must have under law to be enrolled in school.
 
    Merck spokeswoman Janet Skidmore would not say how much the company is
spending on lobbyists or how much it has donated to Women in Government.
Crosby also declined to specify how much the drug company gave.
 
    But Skidmore said: "We disclosed the fact that we provide funding to
this organization. We're not in any way trying to obscure that."
 
    The New Jersey-based drug company could generate billions in sales if
Gardasil _ at $360 for the three-shot regimen _ were made mandatory across
the country. Most insurance companies now cover the vaccine, which has been
shown to have no serious side effects.
 
    Cathie Adams, president of the conservative watchdog group Texas Eagle
Forum, said the relationship between Merck and Women in Government is too
cozy.
 
    "What it does is benefit the pharmaceutical companies, and I don't want
pharmaceutical companies taking precedence over the authorities of parents,"
she said.
 
    Adams said Merck's method of lobbying quietly through groups like Women
in Government in addition to meeting directly with legislators are common in
state government but still should raise eyebrows. "It's corrupt as far as
I'm concerned," she said.
 
    A mandatory vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease could be a
tough sell in the Lone Star State and other conservative strongholds, where
schools preach abstinence and parents' rights are sacrosanct.
 
    But Merck has doubled its spending on lobbyists in Texas this year, to
between $150,000 and $250,000, as lawmakers consider the vaccine bill for
girls entering the sixth grade.
 
    Also, the drugmaker has hired one of the state's most powerful
lobbyists, Mike Toomey, who once served as Republican Gov. Rick Perry's
chief of staff and can influence conservatives who see him as one of their
own.
 
    "What we support are approaches that achieve high immunization rates,"
said Skidmore, the Merck spokeswoman. "We're talking about cervical cancer
here, the second-leading cancer among women worldwide."
 
    The legislation already has the enthusiastic support of the conservative
governor.
 
    "I look at this no different than vaccinating our children for polio,"
Perry said. "If there are diseases in our society that are going to cost us
large amounts of money, it just makes good economic sense, not to mention
the health and well being of these individuals to have those vaccines
available."
 
    Proposals for mandates have popped up from California to Connecticut
since the first piece of legislation was introduced in September in
Michigan. Michigan's bill was narrowly defeated last month. Lawmakers said
the requirement would intrude on families' privacy, even though, as in most
states' proposals, parents could opt out.
 
    Even with such opt-out provisions, mandates take away parents' rights to
make medical decisions for their children, said Linda Klepacki of the
Colorado-based evangelical organization Focus on the Family. The group
contends the vaccine should be available for parents who want it, but not
forced on those who don't.
 
    But Texas Rep. Jessica Farrar said her proposal is aimed at protecting
children whose parents are less informed about or less interested in
preventive care.
 
    "Not everybody has equal sets of parents," said Farrar, a Houston
Democrat who had precancerous cells removed from her cervix several years
ago. "I think this is a public health issue and to not want to eradicate
cervical cancer is irresponsible."
 
    Drug-industry analyst Steve Brozak of W.B.B. Securities has projected
Gardasil sales of at least $1 billion per year _ and billions more if states
start requiring the vaccine. "I could not think of a bigger boost," he said.

C Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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