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Chickenpox Vaccine-- not as great as originally preached

Posted Aug 26 2008 4:31pm
It's kind of funny how one one hand, Big Pharma's all about Big Business--well, we HAVE to charge so much for our pr oducts (except, hm, in Canada where they refuse to pay overinflated prices) 'cause we have to put so much into R&D (and, of course, direct-to-consumer and direct-to-doc advertising)!

But then when their products don't work, the whole business model is conveniently forgotten. I mean, what car manufacturer would survive if you had to replace the steering wheel of its product every few years?

I got this from Medpundit about the not-so-great chickenpox vaccine (brought to us by Merck, the pusher of the the Gardasil--HPV--vaccine , read the old post here ):

A Pox On Us: The chickenpox vaccine - not as great as originally preached :

Merck's chickenpox vaccine Varivax not only loses its effectiveness after a while, but it has also changed the profile of the disease in the population, U.S. researchers reported on Wednesday.

The study confirmed what doctors widely knew -- that the vaccine's protection does not last long.

And with fewer natural cases of the disease going around, unvaccinated children or children in whom the first dose of the vaccine fails to work have been catching the highly contagious disease later in life, when the risk of severe complications is greater, they said.

This is frustrating . When the chickenpox vaccine was originally introduced and recommended, there was tremendous resistance from pediatricians and family physicians in the trenches- for these very reasons. There was the fear that the immunity would not be as good as that aquired through natural disease and that when the vaccine did wear off it would leave young adults vunerable to infection. Chickenpox is a pain to have as a child, but it's potentially life threatening to have it as an adult. Especially a pregnant adult. The experts, however, assured everyone that this was not a worry. The Japanese had been using it for years and it was effective there. Never mind that we don't live in Japan. And most of us aren't Japanese. And so, it became the standard of care to vaccinate against a childhood disease that was largely benign so we could avoid the rare death (usually in an immunocompromised child, and at a rate of 100 per year in the entire United States).

What does this mean? It means we'll be giving boosters. Good for Merck. That doubles the demand for their vaccine. And if it turns out the booster's immunity fades with time, too, there will be another booster. It also means that we will probably see an increase in the incidence of chickenpox again after a steady decline over the past ten years. Which will be all the more reason to promote the booster.

Selling the vaccine to the infectious disease community was truly a golden goose for Merck. It remains to be seen whether it was such a good thing for the rest of us.

P.S. And don't you wonder how many of those infectious disease experts who preached the gospel of Varicella vaccination had financial ties of some sort to Merck? I do.

For the record, the FertilityBitch loves this blog.
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