Saturday, August 23, 2014
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Michael Douglas, HPV, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline and, well, you know

Actor Michael Douglas' interview with London's Guardian newspaper prompted discussion of several levels, including throat cancer and vaccines for HPV.

Michael Douglas, HPV, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline and, well, you know

FILE - Actor Michael Douglas poses for photographers as he arrives for the screening of Behind the Candelabra at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, in this May 21, 2013 file photo. The Guardian newspaper published an interview Monday June 3, 2013 in which Douglas blamed cunnilingus for the grave malady that was diagnosed in 2010. The newspaper also quoted doctors who were skeptical about his claim. (AP Photo/David Azia, File)
FILE - Actor Michael Douglas poses for photographers as he arrives for the screening of Behind the Candelabra at the 66th international film festival, in Cannes, southern France, in this May 21, 2013 file photo. The Guardian newspaper published an interview Monday June 3, 2013 in which Douglas blamed cunnilingus for the grave malady that was diagnosed in 2010. The newspaper also quoted doctors who were skeptical about his claim. (AP Photo/David Azia, File) ASSOCIATED PRESS

 Actor Michael Douglas' interview with London's Guardian newspaper prompted quite of bit of discussion Monday, notably the segment dealing with the cause of his throat cancer.

One of the many devoted PhillyPharma followers (we're grateful to all) suggested there might have been a bit too much information in that interview.

There was a bit of to and fro later Monday about whether he meant that is how he got throat cancer versus some other people. Either way, if you haven't read or heard Douglas' phrasing, you can do so at the Guardian's web site.

Nonetheless, the discussion led to chatter about vaccines meant to prevent HPV, which is human papillomavirus vaccine.

The vaccines were initially developed to treat cancers of the cervix and other bodily parts in that neighborhood, so women and teenage girls were the first groups of patients. But drug companies make money by selling drugs to as many people as possible at the highest price possible and, given the choices that people of both sexes make, doctors have increasingly discussed giving the vaccine to teenage boys as they get to puberty.

Douglas' comment probably brought sheepish applause to parts of West Point, Montgomery County, because that is the home of Gardasil, Merck's vaccine for HPV. Merck, which is based in Whitehouse Station, N.J., sold nearly $1.3 billion worth of Gardasil in 2012, according to Merck's annual report. A link to the SEC filing is here.

This is not Gardasil's first moment in the non-medical sun. During one 2012 Republican primary debate, then-candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann criticized then-candidate and current Texas Gov. Rick Perry for pushing Gardasil for young women in his state. Bachmann also criticized the cozy relationship between Perry and a former staff member who had shifted to lobbying for Merck.

GlaxoSmithKline, which is based in London and has facilities in and around Philadelphia, makes Cervarix, which also is an HPV vaccine. GSK sold about $413.5 million worth of Cervarix in 2012, according to the GSK annual report. A link to the SEC filing is here.

David Sell
About this blog
David Sell blogs about the region's pharmaceutical industry. Follow him on Facebook.

For Inquirer.com. Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

Reach David at dsell@phillynews.com.

David Sell
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