Merck readies back-to-school Gardasil push

Merck is planning a big-time advertising push on Gardasil, hoping to revive flagging sales of the human papillomavirus vaccine. As Advertising Age reports, the drugmaker its plotting its campaign for the big back-to-school shopping season.

Besides ramping up ad spending, Merck is participating in vaccine-day events with doctors' offices and clinics, providing posters, direct-mail pieces, and pocket cards. "Resources were made available several months ago to support execution during the back-to-school time frame," a Merck spokeswoman told AdAge.

During Merck's recent earnings call, EVP Ken Frazier touted the Gardasil push, saying he expected "sequential growth" in the vaccine's sales "as we leverage the back-to-school season." Second-quarter sales amounted to $268 million, down 28 percent from the same period last year and 18 percent from two years ago.

But--and this is a big 'but'--Frazier also said during that call that the 13-to-18-year-old market for Gardasil has already peaked. So despite the back-to-school campaign, Merck is looking outside that age group for any real growth in the vaccine. Frazier said the company is "firmly committed to achieving greater vaccination rates in the 19-to-26 age group." And it's still hoping for new indications--for boys and for women up to age 45--from the FDA.

- read the AdAge piece