Will Gardasil special help Merck?

Merck isn't having the best week in the news (and is the subject of quite a few pharma jokes), but revenues on its cervical cancer vaccine were behind before the week started. Now the Gardasil vaccine maker is working diligently to help its lagging vaccine pick up steam again. It appears that physicians are checking insurance coverage before administering Gardasil shots, and that means fewer sales for Merck.

Of course, the shot costs more than $100 a pop and physicians foot the bill if insurers don't pay, so it makes sense for docs to verify coverage first.   

To help out, the company offered to give replacement dosages of the vaccine to physicians, under certain circumstances.

According to several reports, Barbara Ryan of Deutsche Bank hosted a conference call with Merck during which the head of its vaccine business, Maggie McGlynn, mentioned that the company will give physicians a free dosage of the vaccine if an insurer refuses coverage--in the hopes that more physicians "will convert to same-day vaccination."  The deal only applies to women between 19 and 26 years old who have private health insurance. It also has quite a few other contingencies, including stipulations for "proper" claim submission and proof that the private plan does not reimburse even a penny.

This is in addition to Merck's efforts to make the vaccine mandatory for young U.S. girls, with many wondering if the rise in cervical cancer vaccines are due to increased awareness or to Merck's aggressive, award winning and highly controversial marketing schemes. 

--see the New York Times story
--find what they're saying at the Pharmalot blog
--get Merck's program details