Tuesday, May 15

To market a drug

Financing a vaccine against cervical cancer may be the right thing to do, but a multinational giant's aggressive campaign has muddied the debate

When Finance Minister Jim Flaherty announced $300 million in federal money for a program to vaccinate girls and young women against the human papilloma virus, it was hailed as the most important development in women's reproductive health since the pill.
This vaccine promises to tackle more than the warts caused by certain strains of HPV. It is billed as the first anti-cancer vaccine designed to prevent the vast majority of cervical cancer cases.

But it's too early to tell whether this is just a victory for women's health or also the triumph of an aggressive, multimillion-dollar marketing campaign that has infiltrated our living rooms and the political backrooms. Probably it's both.

......Health officials and women's groups debate the merits of this vaccine on the front pages of newspapers

Many are in favour of the vaccine, calling it a revolution in health care, while others aren't so sure it's necessary and wonder if other health care needs are more pressing, such as reducing waiting times for cancer surgery, or the doctor shortage.

Parents have weighed in, admitting they don't know whether they want their preteens and teens vaccinated. Many people are confused. No wonder. This isn't just a health story, it's a business story, and when we look at it in that light, the urgency around the issue makes more sense.

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