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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

WTH?! Wednesdays: Gardasil vaccine is "safe," at least according to Merck

Introducing a new feature: WTH?! Wednesdays, a time to reflect on the week's most absurd, weird, or amazing stories and photos.

Photo: Jan Christian/Wikipedia Commons
So this week's first post concerns a ridiculous article from the Wall Street Journal declaring that a study finds Gardasil "safe." I didn't even realize at first that it was from the WSJ, and since we subscribe, we have an online account. If only I could find the password, because there is no way I can resist commenting on that one...

However, the study is ... get this ... funded by freaking Merck! If that doesn't make you scratch your head, nothing will. And of the dozen or so people who commented on the article, none of them picked up on this and questioned the ethics surrounding it. I would have thought WSJ readers would have been a lot smarter than that.

Now check out this link to a study that basically says what I'm thinking: that there is less of a chance of an unfavorable outcome if the producer of said product is funding the study. Duh. Do you really think they're going to get unbiased results with Merck footing the bill? Do you really think we'd hear anything about it if they didn't?

From the BMJ study:
"Research funded by drug companies was less likely to be published than research funded by other sources. Studies sponsored by pharmaceutical companies were more likely to have outcomes favouring the sponsor than were studies with other sponsors. 
Conclusion: Systematic bias favours products which are made by the company funding the research. Explanations include the selection of an inappropriate comparator to the product being investigated and publication bias."  
It isn't exactly rocket science.