January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, a time that the World Health Organization (WHO) describes as a perfect opportunity “to raise awareness about cervical cancer and HPV vaccination.”
As attorneys representing clients throughout the nation in Gardasil lawsuits alleging severe post-HPV vaccine injuries, we share in the WHO’s mission to raise awareness about cervical cancer and the HPV vaccine, albeit for different reasons.
In its Cervical Cancer Elimination Initiative (part of Cervical Cancer Awareness Month), the WHO lists human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination as its “primary prevention” mechanism against cervical cancer. This emphasis on HPV vaccination to prevent cervical cancer (instead of the most effective means of preventing the development of cervical cancer, the Pap Smear) aligns with Merck’s prolific marketing of Gardasil (Merck is the manufacturer of Gardasil). Merck has marketed Gardasil as a “cervical cancer vaccine,” asserting that Gardasil provides lifetime immunity to cervical, anal, and other HPV-associated cancers.
However, lawsuits against Merck allege the company does not have a scientifically reliable basis to make such claims because the question of whether Gardasil prevents cancer is unproven. In fact, evidence exists that Gardasil may increase the risk of cervical cancer in those previously exposed to HPV rather than prevent it.
“It is disturbing to see seemingly independent scientific bodies buy Merck’s hype about Gardasil,” says Gardasil lawyer Bijan Esfandiari. “I represent countless young women and men whose lives have been destroyed after receiving Gardasil. The public and medical community deserve to be truthfully and fully informed about the other side of the coin, that is, the potential dangers that come with the HPV vaccine."
In this blog, we go into more detail about the HPV vaccine and Merck’s claims regarding its purported effectiveness in preventing cervical cancer. Some of our clients also share their experiences after Gardasil to “raise awareness” about what HPV vaccination can be like.
HPV and Cervical Cancer: What You Need to Know
HPV is a viral infection that is passed between people through skin-to-skin contact. Out of more than 200 strains of HPV, over 40 strains can be passed through sexual contact. HPV is so common that most people who are sexually active will get it at some point in their lives, even if they do not have a lot of sexual partners.
According to the scientific literature, 12 to 18 of the over 200 strains of HPV are believed to be associated with cervical cancer and only persistent HPV infections (not short-term or transient infections or sequential infections with different HPV types) in a limited number of cases (with certain strains of the virus) may cause the development of precancerous lesions.
Physicians usually diagnose precancerous lesions through Pap Smears and then remove them through medical procedures. If undiagnosed, precancerous lesions may in some cases progress to cervical cancer in some women. The majority of these lesions—even the most serious—regress on their own.
Research indicates that cervical cancer is a multifactor disease with persistent HPV infections seeming to play a role, along with many other environmental and genetic factors, including smoking cigarettes or exposure to other toxic smoke sources, long term use of oral contraceptives, nutritional deficiencies, multiple births (especially beginning at an early age), obesity, inflammation, and other factors. Simply put, not all cervical cancer is associated with HPV.
Gardasil and Cervical Cancer
Public health officials have long recommended the Pap Smear, which detects abnormalities in cervical tissue, as the most effective frontline public health response to cervical cancer. Indeed, the Pap test has reduced the rates of cervical cancer in developed countries by up to 80 percent since it was introduced.
When Merck sought fast-track approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its Gardasil 4 HPV vaccine in 2006, cervical cancer rates had already been dropping dramatically around the world. Despite the enormous success observed from routine Pap testing, Merck pushed hard to get its HPV vaccine through to a swift approval. Merck claimed Gardasil 4 could prevent infections from HPV Types 6, 11, 16 and 18. Of those, only two (16 and 18) were associated with cervical cancer. Gardasil 9, which was introduced in 2009, purportedly guards against five additional HPV strains associated with cervical cancer (HPV Types 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58).
When Merck conducted its clinical trials for Gardasil, the company did not examine Gardasil’s potential to prevent cancer. In fact, it would take decades for a persistent HPV infection to proceed to development of cervical cancer, and because cervical cancer is so rare, a true efficacy study would likely require decades and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of trial participants to demonstrate that eliminating certain HPV infections prevents cervical cancer.
Rather than invest the time and money necessary to study whether or not its vaccine could prevent cervical cancer, Merck instead conducted its clinical trials to look at whether the vaccine could prevent potential precursor conditions, i.e. HPV infections and cervical interepithelial neoplasia (CIN) lesions graded from CIN1 (least serious) to CIN3 (most serious), the vast majority of which resolve on their own without intervention. When Merck presented its data to the FDA, the company suggested that CIN2 and CIN3 lesions inexorably result in cancer even though over 90% of HPV infections and the majority of cervical dysplasia resolve without intervention.
HPV Vaccine Side Effects
While there are no conclusive studies showing Gardasil prevents cervical cancer (which hasn’t stopped Merck from heavily promoting Gardasil as a cancer-prevention vaccine), there are, on the other hand, plenty of studies demonstrating Gardasil side effects. Studies have found the HPV vaccine is capable of causing serious autoimmune injuries, autonomic dysfunction, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), orthostatic intolerance (OI), neurological injuries, and premature ovarian failure (POF), among other issues.
Merck Accused of Fraud in Gardasil Marketing
As Gardasil attorneys, we believe that the Merck’s foundational theory that HPV alone causes cervical cancer, while dogmatically asserted, is not proven. Merck knows that the Gardasil vaccine cannot eliminate all cervical cancer that may be associated with HPV, but that has not stopped the company from marketing Gardasil as a “cervical cancer vaccine.”
One of Merck’s television advertisements from 2016 shamelessly used child actors and actresses implicitly dying of cancer. Looking straight into the camera, they ask their parents whether or not they knew that the HPV vaccine could have protected them against the HPV virus that caused them to develop their cancers.
Each actor asked: “Did you know? Mom? Dad?”
Another television ad campaign falsely proclaimed that any young girl vaccinated with Gardasil would become “one less” woman with cervical cancer. The “One Less” marketing campaign portrayed Gardasil as if there was no question as to the vaccine’s efficacy in preventing cervical cancer.
Can Gardasil Cause Cancer?
Our Gardasil lawsuits allege the HPV vaccine may actually increase the risk of getting cancer instead of preventing cancer. Despite the statements in its marketing, Merck’s label for Gardasil 4 (the original Gardasil vaccine released in 2006), said: “Gardasil has not been evaluated for the potential to cause carcinogenicity or genotoxicity.” The Gardasil 9 vaccine label states: “Gardasil 9 has not been evaluated for the potential to cause carcinogenicity, genotoxicity or impairment of male fertility.”
Several peer-reviewed studies, including one from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggest that Gardasil’s targeting and suppression of certain HPV strains may open an ecological niche for more virulent strains to replace the targeted strains. In other words, research has found that Gardasil may increase the chances of getting cancer.
Other evidence linking Gardasil and cervical cancer include studies showing that, where Gardasil has a high uptake, cervical cancer rates are climbing rather than going down as one would expect with an effective cancer prevention treatment.
For instance, after Gardasil was introduced in Britain, cervical cancer rates among young women aged 25 to 29 surged by 54%.
In Australia, government data showed a significant increase in cervical cancer rates among young women after the implementation of the Gardasil vaccine. The most recent data reveals that 13 years after Gardasil was released and pushed upon teenagers and young adults, there has been a 16% increase in 25 to 29-year-olds and a 30% increase in 30 to 34-year-old women contracting cancer. At the same time, cancer rates are decreasing among older women who have not received the HPV vaccine.
Studies linking Gardasil and cancer include:
- Comparison of HPV prevalence between HPV-vaccinated and non-vaccinated young adult women (20–26 years) – Fangjian Guo et al. (2015)
- Shift in prevalence of HPV types in cervical cytology specimens in the era of HPV vaccinations – Sonja Fischer et al. (2016)
- Biased Cochrane Report Ignores Flaws in HPV Vaccine Studies, and Studies of HPV Type Replacement – J. Lyons-Weiler (2018)
Our Clients Allege They Have Experienced Devastating Gardasil Side Effects
As Gardasil lawyers, we believe the HPV vaccine has wreaked havoc on countless children and young adults on a worldwide scale, with very little if anything (because efficacy is unproven) to show for being exposed to Gardasil’s considerable risks. Our clients continue to suffer from a myriad of autoimmune diseases and other serious side effects after Gardasil. We are fighting to raise awareness about their experiences so other young men and women considering the Gardasil vaccine can make informed choices.
Below, some of our clients share their experiences after Gardasil:
- “We have several reasons for pursuing this action against Merck. First and foremost, we want justice for our son, who suffered mightily because Merck never told us that serious adverse effects were possible. We want accountability and acknowledgment that what they’ve done is wrong. We hope that our case will raise awareness and provide other families the opportunity to make more informed choices about the risks associated with Gardasil. Lastly, we want some form of closure, which is something that we’ve never had.” – Kelli and Cliff Foley, who allege Gardasil caused their son’s wrongful death.
- “Gardasil turned my body into a prison, an anchor that won't afford me the ability to live an independent life and one that significantly restricts my ability to grow as a person. Life with vaccine injuries has been a battle, not just to survive, but to live.” – Zach Otto
- “I want people to know that this happened to me, and it can happen to anyone. It is important for me to share my story to help make sure others understand that there are risks. There hasn’t been a day that’s gone by since I received the Gardasil vaccine that it hasn’t affected me. I don’t want this pain for other kids.” – Victoria Trevisan
- “When I was a kid, I wanted to study medicine and become a doctor. I believed that pharmaceutical companies were truly interested in advancing science to help people. After what’s happened to me and so many others, I don’t know if I believe that anymore. And just because I have filed this lawsuit does not mean I am ‘anti-vax.’ Clearly, I got the shot, all of my other shots and the Covid vaccine. But my dreams are shattered, and I have lost my quality of life because of Gardasil, and I want Merck exposed and held liable for what they have done.” – Ruby Silver
- “So many of the things I loved to do in life were impossible after I was injured by the Gardasil vaccine at 14. Now every morning I wake up feeling as though I am underwater, every muscle slowly trying to respond to the commands I give them. Eventually, I struggle enough to sit up. I reach over and take my medication sitting on my nightstand. After a few hours, I am able to get up and walk the five steps to my desk.” – Mike Colbath
- “I am a shell of what I used to be and feel like all of the hard work and dedication I put into every aspect of my life was taken away from me.” – Emma Sullivan
- “When all of the things you’ve ever wanted to do are physical and something like this comes along and takes away your ability to simply stay on your feet for more than a few minutes at a time, I can’t express how devastating that is. I just want Merck to know that they took from me the opportunity to pursue my dreams.” – Catherine Boss
- “I had no idea that Gardasil was capable of changing my life like this. Even on my best days, I’m still dealing with symptoms that keep me from living the life I want, and that’s not fair.” – Ashley Dalton
- “When I was younger, it seemed like life was full of possibilities. I thought maybe I could move to New York someday and share an apartment with some friends. But Gardasil took all of that away. I don’t dream about an apartment in New York anymore—I dream about things most people probably take for granted, like being able to drive to the mall or go for a bike ride…I dream about feeling normal.” – Skylee Butler
- “When I was growing up, my family would joke that I was bullet proof because nothing really fazed me. Since Gardasil, that joke has become something of a mantra because coping with my health issues has required determination and resolve I didn’t know I had. I’ll never know what my life would’ve been like if I hadn’t taken Gardasil. But I do know this—it wouldn’t have been filled with this much pain.” – Maddie Malloy
- “One of the hardest things about life after Gardasil is having people not believe me when I tell them I’m suffering. The pain is hard enough to deal with; when you also have to suffer the indignity of not being believed about that pain, it’s so much worse. I’m doing this because I want others who are dealing with POTS to know that they aren’t alone.” – Abby Stratton
Wisner Baum Gardasil Lawyer on MDL Leadership
The Gardasil lawyers at Wisner Baum are actively filing HPV vaccine lawsuits on behalf of people who suffered serious Gardasil vaccine side effects.
We represent individuals diagnosed with the following injuries after Gardasil:
- Auto-immune disorder
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Chronic pain syndrome, including Chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS)
- Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)
- Movement disorder
- Neurological disorder
- Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
- Reproductive disorders, including premature ovarian failure (POF)
- Small fiber neuropathy
If you or a member of your family suffered an adverse reaction after a Gardasil injection, our legal team is here to help you. Wisner Baum senior partner Bijan Esfandiari has been litigating Gardasil cases for several years and is on the plaintiff’s leadership in the federal Gardasil multidistrict litigation (MDL) against Merck.
Put your case in the hands of seasoned litigators who know what it takes to win big cases against major companies. Contact our office by calling (855) 948-5098 or submitting an online contact form today to schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled Gardasil lawsuit attorneys.