As we have all heard by now, Merck has decided to cease its lobbying efforts to promote its position that its HPV vaccine Gardasil should be mandatory for children.
The HPV vaccine program has been fraught with controversy. First, while other mandated vaccines are to prevent diseases that can be transmitted merely by being in the same room with an infected person, HPV is transmitted during sex, so it is a departure from current policy. Secondly, some parents perceived it as an intrusion into their own considerations of matters related to sex and their teenager. Lastly, as mentioned in my posting of February 5 – "Balancing Lobbying with Public Affairs" – it may not be a good idea to present a solution to a problem when people haven’t been made fully aware of the problem.
There is a lesson here for companies with multiple products to promote and an image to consider. Given the lingering scrutiny that squares directly on any company in the post-Vioxx era – decisions on individual product promotion take on an added significance. It is essential that product marketing teams today (not for Merck but for all pharmas) take into account the sensitivities in the current policy environment and the overall corporate reputation when designing a single product promotion campaign.