Pharma behemoth Merck is defending what it touted as a miracle cervical-cancer vaccine against charges of ineffectiveness. Merck lobbied states to mandate Gardasil for young girls—Texas and Virginia did—and got a glowing endorsement from the CDC. But new studies show that it works only to prevent sexually-transmitted HPV, a cause of cancerous cervical growths, not the cancer itself.
Merck’s unprecedented legal and media push drew backlash from doctors who insist Pap tests are the best measure against the disease, and conservatives wary of vaccinating against STDs. The outrage led to tests which Gardasil didn’t exactly ace: The vaccine performed a meager 14% better than placebo against the cancer. Merck blames the poor response on already-infected subjects.