Monday, July 7, 2008

The other side of cancer vaccines...

Recently, there has been quite a surfeit of information in the news about various vaccines such as Oncophage, Gardasil and Cervarix.

In theory, they sound promising either as protection from cancer developing, as in the case with the HPV vaccines for cervical cancer or as maintenance therapy after initial treatment with other agents or surgery, as with other vaccines.

There are downsides though, as Merck are discovering this week. CBS, CNN and other news channels are running stories on Gardasil's side effects including paralysis and wart outbreaks. That's not good news for a company that has gone through the scandals associated with Vioxx and Vytorin, followed by an ongoing battle with the FDA over the approval of Cordaptive.

Meanwhile, the WSJ reported that Wall Street had become a little nervous with news of flattening sales and thus the stock price took a hit. The stories of serious adverse events may lead to further skittishness over the next few weeks until they are addressed with robust data.

This is a big headache all around for a pharma company and a PR nightmare. Once stories get out about serious adverse events, more often come out of the woodwork.

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