Phoebe is a good friend who’s been dealing with the fall-out of her husband’s rampant infidelity. “Fortunately I didn’t have an STD,” she said, “and I’d like to keep it that way.” In her early fifties, Phoebe got the first two shots in the Gardasil series, designed to protect young women from HPV that can go on to cause cancer.
“They told me insurance might not cover it,” she said, “but I didn’t know the shots would be $230 a piece!” She’s had two of the three shots in the series. Phoebe can afford the shots, but the injustice still grates. “Seriously, the emotional part of this is hard enough to manage. Do I get divorced? Do I be patient? Do I sign up for lifetime of therapy? Industrial strength sleep meds? I figured the practical parts, like STD prevention would at least be straightforward.
“I looked into it,” she said, “and Gardasil is approved for young women 9 to 26. Really. Nine years old!!” The idea is to “catch” women before they become sexually active and are exposed to the HPV virus. The vaccine protects against the four most common types that go on to cause cancer, but only if the injections are done before exposure. “Seriously,” said Phoebe, “it’s approved for a NINE year old girl? But I read about a 26 year old who’s a virgin and wants to wait until she has insurance coverage….and a potential husband….before getting the injections. But if she waits, insurance won’t cover her anyway.”
Merck is reportedly in clinical trials to get Gardasil approved for women aged 27-45. Gynecologist Diane Harper conducted some of the earlier trials for Gardasil. Over half of the women she inoculates are in their 30s, 40s or 50s, many engaging in sex with new partners after divorcing or being widowed.
Even if Gardasil is approved for middle-aged women Phoebe would still be out of luck. She’s just too darn old.…”is it that science doesn’t work for us? Or is it that they don’t care?,” asked Phoebe. “It would sure be nice to know how much effort drug companies put into drugs like Viagra and how much they put into medicines to keep women healthy.”