Flat Gardasil sales trigger Merck sell-off

A one-two punch for Merck's Gardasil yesterday: First, a market analyst downgraded the company's stock largely because of flat sales of the human papilloma virus vaccine. Gardasil sales have fallen short of expectations, in fact, for the past two quarters; Merck blamed the slowing growth on seasonal issues. But, says UBS's Roopesh Patel, the second quarter ought to be different, and so sales ought to take a leap upward. But he's calculated Gardasil revenues at $300 million this quarter, just slightly more than $293 million in the first quarter. The sales trends "don't look encouraging," he says. Discouraged investors triggered a sizable drop for Merck's shares.

Second, CBS News ran a piece about reported side effects. The story cited some 8,000 adverse event reports and offered details of a few serious ones--seizures, chronic pain, paralysis, and death from blood clots. Of course these reports are anecdotal; there's no proven causal link between the vaccine and the medical problems girls subsequently developed. But publicity about them can be enough to throw nervous parents off--and the story is already proliferating on other TV news programs and across the web.

- see the market story at Pharmalot
- check out the Wall Street Journal article
- read the CBS News report