We sought to investigate roles that Merck & Co Inc played in state human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization policymaking, to elicit key stakeholders' perceptions of the appropriateness of these activities, and to explore implications for relationships between health policymakers and industry.
We used a series of state case studies combining data from key informant interviews with analysis of media reports and archival materials. We interviewed 73 key informants in 6 states that were actively engaged in HPV vaccine policy deliberations.
Merck promoted school-entry mandate legislation by serving as an information resource, lobbying legislators, drafting legislation, mobilizing female legislators and physician organizations, conducting consumer marketing campaigns, and filling gaps in access to the vaccine. Legislators relied heavily on Merck for scientific information. Most stakeholders found lobbying by vaccine manufacturers acceptable in principle, but perceived that Merck had acted too aggressively and nontransparently in this case.
Although policymakers acknowledge the utility of manufacturers' involvement in vaccination policymaking, industry lobbying that is overly aggressive, not fully transparent, or not divorced from financial contributions to lawmakers risks undermining the prospects for legislation to foster uptake of new vaccines.