Friday's Prime Cuts

  • by: |
  • 10/07/2005

This is a story of two prime numbers. The first prime number is 779. That’s the number of Google “news” hits for today’s announcement that final-stage testing shows Merck’s Gardasil vaccine to be 100% effective over the short term in preventing infection with two strains of human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that is the leading cause of cervical cancer, during a Phase III study of more than 12,000 young women in 13 countries. The drug was genetically engineered to block HPV types 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancers. 779 hits for an announcement of truly global significance. Coming in a distant second is the second prime number, 219. That’s the number of Google hits for the headline, “Merck opens its defense in Vioxx trial.” My rough math shows, therefore, that the media feels that an almost complete defeat of cervical cancer is about three and a half times more newsworthy than Merck’s defense in the second Vioxx trial. TGIF.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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