Medical health authorities have repeatedly assured us that Gardasil, the vaccine injection given to young girls to allegedly prevent cervical cancer, is perfectly safe. For example, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, a group of medical specialists, endorsed the vaccine last February. The Society of Gynecologic Oncologists of Canada claims the vaccine is safe, as does Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer. The Canadian Pediatric Society and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada have also endorsed the vaccine.
These medical authorities, however, are puzzled and also indignant that the use of this vaccine still remains controversial, ever since it was rolled out in lightening speed after Ottawa announced a $300 million funding package for participant provinces. After all, they reason, they have approved the drug, so what is the problem? Surely their expert opinion should be sufficient to allay the public’s fears about the drug?
The reason the public has good reason to distrust the judgement of these medical authorities is because of their experience with them. It is a fact that the public has heard many similar assurances about other drugs, and used them to their lasting regret. For example:
• In the 1960’s, thalidomide was pronounced a safe drug for pregnant women experiencing morning sickness. It was not safe, as thousands of adults with flipper arms and legs can attest.
• In the 1960’s, the birth control pill was developed and women were assured that its use had no harmful side effects. Studies now report that the pill can be the cause of a greatly increased risk of stroke, heart attack and blood clots if taken for eight years or more. (British Journal of Medicine, 16 or 17 September, 2007).
• Between 1938 and 1971, as many as 4 million U.S. women and many Canadian women took the drug, diethylstilbestrol (DES) to prevent miscarriage. Daughters of these women who were exposed to DES in utero have experienced a range of structural reproductive tract abnormalities in the uterus, cervix and vagina. The incidents of abnormality occurs in 18% of cases, but it may be as high as 33% in women exposed to DES in utero. The male offspring of women who took DES during pregnancy, also have an increased incidence of genital abnormalities and a possibility of increased risk of prostrate and testicular cancer.
• Merck Frosst, the manufacturer of Gardasil, also developed a much-acclaimed painkiller called Vioxx, that was subsequently used by thousands of individuals suffering from arthritis. Unfortunately, the drug had the side effect of causing heart attacks and strokes. As a result, the medication was taken off the market in 2004 and Merck Frosst is now facing thousands of class action suits amounting to billions of dollars in claims.
• By 2001, 15 million women in the U.S. alone, as well a millions of women in Canada and abroad, were taking hormone-replacement therapy (H.R.T.). It became one of the most popular prescription drug treatments for menopause, supposedly to allow women to lead a long and healthier life. However, in July 2002, estrogen therapy was exposed as a hazard to health, rather than a benefit. It was found to constitute a potential health risk for post-menopausal women by increasing risks of heart disease, stroke, blood clots and breast cancer. The question lingers unanswered, as to how many women may have died prematurely because their physician prescribed this medication? A reasonable estimate would be tens of thousands of women. (New York Times, September 16, 2007).
• Europe’s largest drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline developed and sold the diabetic drug Avandia, it’s second best selling product last year, which was subsequently linked to a higher risk of heart attacks according to a study released in May 2007. This caused sales of the drug to drop 38%.
These are just a few examples of the here-today gone-tomorrow nature of medical wisdom. What we are advised about with confidence one year is reversed the next. One of the contributing factors to this reversal is that the kind of experimental trials necessary to determine the truth about the medication is excessively expensive and time-consuming and very often does not happen. Hence, the problem with these new drugs so enthusiastically recommended by the medical profession.
It is alarming that Gardasil’s approval was based on the testing of only a few thousand patients and almost not at all (only 1200) on young girls, 9-13 years old, who are targeted for injection of the drug. (See REALity Sept/Oct. 2007, p. 5)
As its marketing plan, Merck Frosst used lobbyists with access to important public officials. In Canada, Ken Boessenkool, now with the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton in Calgary, lobbied the federal government on Merck Frosst’s behalf. Mr. Boessenkool was a former advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper when he was opposition leader. Jason Grier, former executive assistant to Ontario Health Minister George Smitherman, also lobbied on behalf of Merck and Ontario has now decided to administer the drug to young girls.
Even though only approximately 2-5% of women have Pap smears with cell changes due to HPV, the medication was pushed as a preventative cure for cervical cancer. However, no mention was made of the fact that the drug does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, herpes, hepatitis, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, AIDS, etc. It’s all promotion; facts do not count.
The long-term consequences of Gardasil are not known. The manufacturer admits this and agrees it does not know its effect on young girls’ cancer risk, on their immunity system, on their reproductive system, or its genetic effects. In due course, we will know this, possibly in twenty or thirty years from now when these young girls, the innocent subjects of the Gardasil experiment have become grown women and then report the consequences of their having taken the medication in their childhood on medical advice.