Monday, October 20, 2008

Merck's Goal: "One Less" Gardasil Marketing Problem

Merck is trying to market its cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil to women who may not benefit from it after U.S. sales shrank in July and August, according to a Bloomberg article (see "Merck Aims Gardasil to Women Least Likely to Benefit").

This is in response to a 33% decline in sales.

As pointed out by Jim Edwards over at Bnet "Merck is simply adjusting its strategy to the inevitable grind of numbers: As more girls get the shot, its remaining market declines — and thus Merck must target increasingly marginally profitable populations" (see "At Merck, Desperation Sets in Over Gardasil").

Merck clearly is trying to market Gardasil like a drug for long-term medical conditions such as high cholesterol. In fact, according to the Bloomber article:
Merck "is counting on Gardasil to help offset declining sales of cholesterol pills Vytorin and Zetia after a January study found they may work no better at unclogging arteries than a cheaper medicine. Sales of the asthma treatment Singulair, Merck's top-selling drug, have also slowed over safety concerns."
"Gardasil needs to be doing better," said Barclays Capital analyst Tony Butler in New York, in a telephone interview. The vaccine "has become increasingly more important from a profit standpoint because of the concerns over Singulair and Vytorin and Zetia."
Even though 75% of the most effective market for Gardasil (teenage girls from 13 to 17 years old) has not received a dose of Gardasil, Merck would rather focus on women ages 19 to 26, who have been less likely to get the shots than try to go after teenagers.
"We see tremendous opportunity," said Bev Lybrand, Merck's senior vice president of vaccines. "We have a number of programs under way to get after these women." [My emphasis.]
Gardasil's Marketing Problems
Gardasil has difficulties that marketing must overcome. These include price, effectiveness, and possible dangerous side effects (the CDC said it has received reports of 21 deaths and almost 10,000 side effects in women following vaccination). The latter is an especially difficult hurdle if you have to target mothers of teenage girls rather than the girls themselves -- it's taboo and even illegal in some cases to market to minors under the age of 18. For example, Merck cannot do direct mail or email marketing to teenagers by collecting names and postal/email addresses. That needs parental permissions.

Previously, Merck tried to avoid marketing Gardasil altogether by bribing state legislatures to make HPV vaccination mandatory for school girls. That backfired spectacularly (see "Gardasil: To Be Mandatory or Not To Be Mandatory -- That is the Question").

It's much easier to market to women older than the age of consent. With these women the biggest obstacle is price. This age group is prone to lack medical insurance to cover the price of drugs. And, as mentioned above, public health experts feel it is not cost-effective to treat women in that age group. Merck will try to convince doctors otherwise. I predict, however, that Merck marketers will have a hard row to hoe with the 19-26 age group.

Obviously, Merck also feels the same way. "Merck," reports Bloomberg, "is seeking Food and Drug Administration approval to market Gardasil to women through age 45." Now we're talking about marketing's sweet spot!


  1. Anonymous3:33 PM

    Interesting Article!

    I found it interesting that this article mentions the legal issue of marketing to girls under 18 years of age. However, that did not stop the doctor who stabbed my daughter with this crap. Telling her that it was a vaccine for cervical cancer. Just like this article attempts to tell you too. This is not a vaccine for cancer. A Big Phara marketing lie!

    I am pleased to learn that Mercks has marketing problems....Having trouble getting people to swallow these poisons?

  2. Anonymous5:55 PM

    hmmmm, this vaccine is a genocidal program that the pharma pigs attempt to ram down the publics throats. excellent that they failed to make it mandatory.

    this vaccine has murdered of 20 young vibrate women. will your daughter be next?

  3. Anonymous11:04 PM

    My doctor gave my daughter and I a real hard sell, but I declined. Sadly I probably did more research on the vaccine than the doctor did because of lack of time on her part.

    During a second appointment that my 17 yr. old went into the exam room for the entire time by herself the doctor tried again to sell her on the idea.

    I was even asked by this pediatrician, "do you want your daughter to get cancer?" Unbelievable!

    The drug company doesn't even know how many years the vaccine will protect girls. So the whole thing might be a big waste of money for 11 and 12 yr. old that may not be sexually active for 4-5 yrs. Never mind the side effects they will possibly be exposed to.


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