by Beth Snyder Bulik
On the heels of a recently renewed push by researchers and doctors to encourage HPV vaccinations, Merck–maker of market-leader Gardasil–is out with a new HPV awareness campaign that puts the onus of vaccination on parents.
In the TV ad, a young adult man with cancer caused by HPV is shown in a series of pictures that go back in time. He wonders whether his parents just didn’t know about the vaccine that could have protected him when he was 11 or 12. The ad ends with a female voiceover asking, “What will you say?”
“This new campaign is a continuation of Merck’s commitment to HPV disease and vaccine education,” a Merck spokesperson told FiercePharmaMarketing via email. It’s “designed to help parents become aware of the potential risk of HPV-related cancers for their children later in life and the CDC recommendation for HPV vaccination at age 11 and 12, and stresses the important role parents play in talking with their child’s healthcare provider to learn more.”
A recent spate of published studies and media reports not only backs the effectiveness of the vaccination but also pushes for doctors to become more assertive in recommending it to young patients.
Most recently, an analysis of 58 studies on the vaccine since 2007 was compiled and evaluated, led by Royal Women’s Hospital at the University of Melbourne, Australia. It found a 90% decrease in HPV cases in countries with the highest vaccination rates, even though the HPV shot still lags other childhood vaccinations. In the U.S., only 40% of girls and 21% of boys have received the HPV vaccination, according to the CDC.
In February, 69 of the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Centers issued a joint statement calling for higher uptake. The American Society of Clinical Oncology joined the effort in May and published recommendations for oncologists to encourage vaccination.
Gardasil brought in $1.9 billion in sales last year–which would sound like more if forecasts hadn’t once pegged the HPV vaccine market at $4 billion in annual sales. The other HPV vaccine, GlaxoSmithKline’s Cervarix, had sales of about $128 million last year.
The Merck spokeswoman said the awareness campaign is needed because in its own survey of 858 parents last year “about 85% were familiar with HPV, but only about 50% knew about the link between the virus and cancer.”
– here’s the TV spot