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The Patient–Consumer–Advocate Nexus

The Marketing and Dissemination of Gardasil, the Human Papillomavirus Vaccine, in the United States



The 2006 availability of Merck's human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Gardasil, in the United States provides an opportunity to examine the pharmaceutical company's creation of patient awareness for one of the most common sexually transmitted infections and its related cancer. In spite of the ubiquity of gynecological screening, prior to the vaccine's dissemination, most U.S. women were not familiar with either the infection or its association with cancer. Merck's role in encouraging a patient advocacy community mimics existing breast cancer patient advocacy culture in the United States while also demonstrating marked popular culture differences between the two women's health concerns and their respective advocacy groups. This article draws on ethnographic fieldwork with an HPV/cervical cancer advocacy organization to demonstrate how the group and its members engaged in an activism of awareness that disavows larger political aims.

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