Pharmaceutical company Merck has taken drug marketing to a whole new level with its new campaign for the drug Gardasil, marketed as a vaccine for cervical cancer. Their campaign, launched on a massive, multi-media level to consumers and aggressively promoted within the medical community has taken the nation by storm, and created a buzz among women almost phenomenal.
While fear-based advertising had numerous harmful effects on the moral and values of a society when used to promote clothes, food, cars and other commodities, the bad effect is multiplied to a whole new level of irresponsibility when used within the healthcare system.
What the campaign communicates conveys a massive lack of social consciousness, on several levels.
Even while the drug was still in testing, before it was approved, Merck was paving the way for it’s next best-seller. The drug was expedited through the lengthy FDA-approval process in 6 months, a process that usually takes years, and before tests could reveal the long-term effects of the drug. Merck went to great lengths to cultivate support for the product within the medical community, hosting sponsored lunches and paying doctors and nurses up to $4,500 to simply lecture about the drug’s functions.
Merck hit all media to pack it’s punch, using Facebook, TV, print, and even a theater ad that played before the Sex and City movie. Merck’s efforts for Gardasil earned a them numerous awards from….. guess who, Pharmaceutical Advertising and Marketing Excellence awards, and Gardasil was named best brand by Pharmaceutical Executive magazine.
Pharmaceutical companies traditionally haven’t marketed vaccines as aggressively as other drugs, because they weren’t as profitable. Gardasil is their golden ticket, currently going for the whopping rate of almost $400 for the drug, not including doctor fees. Many health plans don’t cover it, kicking it into the women’s luxury item category, which is known for distorting the true value of something, according to who and how many people want it.
But should a medical vaccine really be the next “it” thing to have, or give to your children?
More cautious mothers are starting to realize they were wise, as new facts about the vaccine come into the light. Consider these not-so-obvious facts about the product itself:the vaccine was rapidly rushed onto the market, and long-term effectiveness is still undetermined. Some tests have revealed the vaccine’s protection to wear off after only 3 years. And Merck recommends giving it to girls as young as 10 or 11. Which means it might very well wear off twice before a girl even became sexually active. And at around $360 a pop, what does that mean? Merck just made almost $1,200 to protect that girl against something she never was exposed to.?
Merck’s marketing for Gardasil cashes in on the power the term “cancer cure” holds, and doesn’t accurately communicate the true function of the vaccine. Consider these facts: the drug prevents infection from two of the main cancer-causing strains of HPV. There are over a hundred, and it doesn’t protect against those.
Cervical cancer takes years to develop, and regular PAP smears make it easily preventable, as long as it’s detected early.
Commercials neglect to mention that over 95% of the deaths caused by cervical cancer are in developing countries, where women aren’t able to get Pap smears, the simple preventative measure. In the US, due to the increase in regular testing, the rate of cervical cancer is currently decreasing at a rate of 4% a year.
Some states are considering the vaccine mandatory for middle school-aged girls, and Virginia has recently made it law. Considering how cancer is easily caught and treated through regular check-ups, shouldn’t the state instead mandate routine Pap smears when that girl reaches puberty?
If immunization becomes mandatory, everyone will be feeling the high cost of the drug, through their wallet. The high cost of the drug will raise the cost of healthcare, already a major burden in our current economy.
One of the things we consciously support here at jungle is the move away from fear-based marketing within the advertising industry. As we have said before, the old adage of “ you’re not good enough”, or “quick, hurry, buy this or something bad will happen to you” is no longer relevant within a socially-conscious society.
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? So, the point is to think twice before being swept up by the latest fad product. Or stop and think when you’re told you should be afraid. Because, in this case, the scariest part is how Merck is expected to make over $1.6 billion this year, not just from medical necessity, but from fear.