CHICAGO, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Merck & Co. paid three medical associations to promote Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against a sexually transmitted disease, a U.S. medical journal reports.
In a report in the Aug. 19 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, Merck acknowledged it paid a total of $750,000 to the American College Health Association, the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists and the American Society for Colposcopy and Cervical Pathology, The Washington Post said Tuesday.
Merck said the money went to educate people about the vaccine. The JAMA analysis said the medical groups used a promotion strategy almost identical to what Merck used in its marketing campaign, the Post reported.
"This clearly shows how Merck was able to influence opinion leaders in the medical field to promote the vaccine without presenting any of the downsides," said Diane M. Harper of the University of Missouri at Kansas City, who helped test the vaccine for Merck but has criticized the company's activities. "This shows how they were able to influence physicians."
The medical groups said they disclosed their funding source.
James Turner, president of the American College Health Association, said the vaccine -- which protects against the human papillomavirus -- is "the greatest prevention tool in women's health since the invention of the Pap smear."
HPV causes genital warts and can lead to cervical cancer.