Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Pharma Blogosphere Row Over Gardasil!

I had a very nice discussion with Jim Edwards (BrandweekNRX) on my Pharma Talk podcast Tuesday (listen to it here) . We really hit it off and I learned a thing or two.

Little did I know that the very next day Jim would position me in the "pro-family" camp that "want their daughters to get STDs and die of cancer" (see "Pro-Cancer Crowd Forces Merck to Cave on Gardasil"). What Jim said was:

"In the meantime, feel free to ask the 'pro-family' people why it is that they want their daughters to get STDs and die of cancer. Because I just don't understand it. And if my failure to understand this makes me 'biased,' as John Mack says, so be it."

Now, of course, I am pro-family because who could possibly be anti-family? I even have a family. And I certainly don't want daughters to die of cancer!

And I didn't say that Jim fails to understand anything because he is biased.

What I said was:

In his blog, Jim focuses his criticism on the promiscuity issue and puts himself squarely against the religious right. Now that I know his opinion of a major issue for the religious right, can I trust that his reporting on this topic in that publication will be 'journalistic' (ie, balanced)?
I wasn't passing judgement on his stand on mandatory vaccination. I was just wondering how to look at him as a journalist now that I know where he stands viz-a-viz the religious right.

In fact, I agree with Fard Johnmar, founder of Envision Solutions, LLC and blogger over at HealthcareVOX, who disagrees with Edwards who agrees with Governor Perry. BTW, I will be interviewing Fard on my podcast next Wednesday (see "Mixing Blogging and Business: An Interview with Fard Johnmar").

Fard said:
"I disagree with Edwards. I think that Merck recognized that the overall poor reputation of the pharmaceutical industry coupled with charges that its lobbying efforts weren’t designed to aid public health, pushing for mandatory vaccination was a bad move. In addition, should Merck’s vaccine turn out to have some nasty, previously unknown side effects (see Vioxx) it could be in a lot of trouble. No, better to wait and take the high road. Good call Merck." (See "Merck Pulls Plug On Gardasil Lobbying Effort").
I made a comment to Jim's original post, but for some reason it never got published. I must have pushed the wrong button.

What I said was that the mandatory vaccination issue was more complicated than "pro-family" choice. That is how Jim framed the argument, whereas I frame it as an issue of balancing benefit versus possible risk and letting people make there own choices. So I am really pro-choice!

Jim says "The Lone Star state has become an isolated test group for the effectiveness of the vaccine. The rest of the U.S. is the control group."

What if things go wrong in the test group? If people are going to be guinea pigs -- ie, part of a test group -- it is only ethical that they opt-in and know what the risks are. After all, drug companies don't recruit subjects for clinical trials without obtaining their permission first. If ovarian cancer was a great public health problem -- which it is not -- then the risk/benefit equation would be shifted and I might feel differently.

I think Jim stands pretty much alone in the Pharma Blogosphere on his accusation that anyone who is against Merck lobbying for mandatory vaccination is part of a "pro-cancer crowd."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent reply.