Better Profits Through Scaremongering!
Merck has begun marketing its Gardasil vaccine as applicable to young boys. So, what’s the big deal?
Gardasil, MerckÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s cervical cancer vaccine, has already been heavily marketed to young girls (actually, to brainwashed soccer moms for their young daughters). The real market for Gardasil is young women who have compromised immune systems. (HPV is almost never a problem for women with uncompromised immune systems, and less so for women who do not engage in risky behaviors like scooting between multiple sex partners, drug use, etc.)
Nevertheless, parents should evaluate whether the vaccine is for their daughters. Side effects include, but are not limited to:
Pain in the area of the injection
Swelling in the are of the injection
Redness in the area of the injection
Fever (or very high fever)
General ill feeling
Trouble sleeping (insomnia)
Signs of an allergic reaction, including difficulty breathing, wheezing, an unusual skin rash, itching, or hives
Of course, now that Merck is marketing the stuff for boys, who knows what the side effects may be, since it wasn’t tested on males (see the other “Things You Might Not Know About Gardasil” at the link…)
But why market the vaccine for boys, anyway? Oh, I guess because,
The new male recommendation is based on the notion that boys could get throat cancer if they have oral sex with an HPV-infected girl.
OK, examine that for a second. There are really relatively few cervical cancer cases in American women each year, in fact, in any given year, only 0.0087% of women are even diagnosed with cervical cancer. Look at that percentage carefully again: 0.0087%, that’s 8.7 in 100,000. And of those cases, 8.44 of the 8.7 (per 100,000) new cases are cured by various medical means currently available.
The death rate from cervical cancer is about 4,600 per year in the U.S., a less than the flu. No matter how you slice the annual average 36,000 deaths from flu in the U.S., many, many more than 4,600 are women. So, among many risk factors, HPV is relatively low, even for women, as a health risk factor–and even lower if they do not engage in risky behaviors and behaviors that compromise their immune systems.
So, then, what’s the big risk of throat cancer in boys from exposure to HPV, anyway?
In looking at patients with tumors that were positive for a particular strain of HPV already well-linked to cervical cancer, six or more oral sex partners increased risk for throat cancer by eightfold. [emphasis added]
Wow! That certainly seems scary enough, doesn’t it? But wait a minute… how prevalent is throat cancer anyway, and what are the other risk factors, and how are they weighted?
Approximately 34,000 people in the US will be newly diagnosed with oral cancer in 2007.*
That’s certainly more than will be diagnosed with cervical cancer–by a factor of about 9. But of course, most of those with throat (and oral) cancers are men.
“HPV has been found to be a factor in about one out of five oral cancers.” OK “a factor” in 20% of throat cancer cases. That’s poretty significant, but still leaves other factors influencing the other 80%, doesn’t it? And note that’s “a factor” in those 20% of cases, indicating that even in those cases, there are others. In fact, “About 90 percent of people who develop these [oral, throat] cancers use some form of tobacco.”
Seems tobacco use is the biggie. In fact, from that source it would seem that at least some (up to 90%?) of those “20% of cases” would likely involve tobacco use, too.
So, Merck’s marketing their Gardasil vaccine to protect boys from this risk? At about $300-$400 per boy (OK, I threw in a nominal–and totally bogus!–$15 per Dr. visit for the three-series shots; it’ll be more, of course)? And what will the customer get? Possible protection for boys who
a. have compromised immune systems
b. are (likely) heavy tobacco users
c. have six or more oral sex partners
Possible protection, because the jury’s still not in on Gardisil’s effectiveness against oral/throat cancers with an HPV linkage.
It is not yet clear if the HPV vaccine now approved for the prevention of cervical cancer in women can also prevent HPV-driven throat cancer or other malignancies that have been linked to HPV infection… **
Hmmm, seems like parents actually being parents and teaching their boys (and girls) about the benefits of chastity as opposed to instant gratification, avoid tobacco use and other risky behaviors, etc. would be much more effective, as well as having a beneficial effect on society in general.
But that would require parents to be, well, parents, you know, the responsible adults we all know most parents… are not.
Oh, well. Just scare ’em and give ’em some drugs.
(Oh, and before anyone pipes in with “You just don’t know kids” or some such bullshit, well, yes I do. I’ve not only taught and worked with teenagers, my Wonder Woman and I have raised our own. Responsible parenting is too possible. I learned it from my wife.)
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