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Merck – y Waters

With all the brouhaha about Republican candidates for president weighing in on mandatory HPV vaccination, I think a broader perspective on the political/pharmaceutical alliance is in order.

I can understand candidate Rick Perry’s unconditional support for anything that might guarantee a big windfall to such a reliable big pharma donor. I can understand Bachmann’s calling him out on it in trying to rattle a front-runner.

For the record, my own daughter is vaccinated, but I wanted to wait past the mandatory age for two reasons: (1) I would rather she waited till she was a bit older and her body more developed, and (2) because I knew from a cancer epidemiologist of my acquaintance that this was a vaccine-in-development, and there would be a second-generation vaccine that protected against other strains of the disease. 

Caution is always in order with new, more or less untested drugs.

Also, it should be a voluntary thing. I mean, we’re talking about the chance of adult cervical cancer, developing from a venereal disease, not childhood polio.

The real problem with companies like Merck, and they’re hardly the only ones, is the way I see them muscling in on large groups to insure a big payout on their research. All schoolgirls in a state, when schools require vaccination histories every year or two, for example.

Their future target is “lifestyle management” drugs for chronic conditions, I would say, and the link with educational institutions is a bit more subtle than mandatory vaccinations. There’s always a quasi-political link.

Did you know, for example, that ??Gov. Bobby Jindal called a special session to allocate more than $1 billion in surplus to support the Pennington Biomedical Research Center (PBRC)? Check out their history page: This summer, a new director was announced. He’s the former “Global Director of Scientific Affairs for the Obesity Franchise” at Merck.

I like that word “franchise.” Sounds like a fast-food joint, a bit.

Not too long ago, there was another announcement about a large military grant. So what does this mean? Will there be weight-loss drugs tested on the military? There’s a captive health audience, if ever there was one. Even the new director, Mr. Heymsfield, admitted in an interview that drugs people have taken to hit weight-loss targets in the past might have unexpected, negative side effects.

Maybe I’m just reading things into a situation, and the ultimate goal is to prevent diabetes in aging veterans using the VA for medical care, and it’s all good. I’m just not sure about that word “franchise.”

Lest you imagine this to be a partisan rant from someone with a bee in the bonnet, I’m sure you’ll find busy Democrats, too, swarming around that much money, honey.

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