Antivaccine lunatics invent another hero for their cause

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Yes, out of the blue, the vaccine denialist cult is going to foist another individual who will trumpet the evils of vaccination. No, it’s not another Jenny McCarthy. Or Alicia Silverstone. Or Mayim Bialik.

No, this is big time. Wait for it. This is really big.

It’s Bernard Dalbergue.

I think I hear chirping crickets out there. No, I had no idea who this dude was, so as a public service, I decided to find out what I could find out.

So who is this Bernard Dalbergue and why is he important to the antivaccinationists? Well, it’s because, as the antivaccination fringe proclaim loudly, Dr. Dalbergue is a “former pharmaceutical industry physician with Gardasil manufacturer Merck.” And he apparently made some nasty comments about Gardasil in the April 2014 issue (pdf, French) in the French anti-science magazine Principes de Santé (Health Principles). 

Source: CDC
Source: CDC

In case you don’t know, Gardasil (or Silgard in Europe) is a HPV quadrivalent vaccine, which is vitally important part of the war against infectious diseases, by preventing the transmission of certain types (pdf), specifically 6, 11, 16, and 18, of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Importantly, HPV types 16 and 18 cause approximately 70% of cervical cancers, and cause most HPV-induced anal (95% linked to HPV), vulvar (50% linked), vaginal (65% linked), oropharyngeal (60% linked) and penile (35% linked) cancers. These HPV-related cancers can be prevented as long as you can prevent the HPV infection itself, which are generally passed through genital contact, most often during vaginal, oral and anal sex.

In that article, Dr. Dalbergue claimed that (translated from French):

The full extent of the Gardasil scandal needs to be assessed: everyone knew when this vaccine was released on the American market that it would prove to be worthless! Diane Harper, a major opinion leader in the United States, was one of the first to blow the whistle, pointing out the fraud and scam of it all.

Gardasil is useless and costs a fortune!  In addition, decision-makers at all levels are aware of it!

Cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome, paralysis of the lower limbs, vaccine-induced MS and vaccine-induced encephalitis can be found, whatever the vaccine.

I predict that Gardasil will become the greatest medical scandal of all times because at some point in time, the evidence will add up to prove that this vaccine, technical and scientific feat that it may be, has absolutely no effect on cervical cancer and that all the very many adverse effects which destroy lives and even kill, serve no other purpose than to generate profit for the manufacturers.

There is far too much financial interest for these medicines to be withdrawn.

Uh oh, Diane Harper, that “major opinion leader in the USA” is being compared to Dr. Dalbergue. And in case you don’t know about Dr. Diane Harper, according to a number of vaccine refuseniks (there are numerous websites that repeat the same story, almost verbatim), she decided to “come clean” about Gardasil so that she could “sleep at night.” The antivaccination world have attached themselves to this story, because they think it uncovers a conspiracy or lies by the vaccine manufacturers, and since Dr. Harper obviously escaped from the evil clutches of Big Pharma. The myth of Diane Harper also includes the ridiculous belief that she was the “lead researcher” for Gardasil.

Dr. Dalbergue’s story seems awfully like Dr. Harper’s. Except for the small fact that I can find no evidence that he ever worked for Merck (as opposed to Dr. Harper, who actually did, though not quite in the role she and the antivaccine world claimed). As far as I was able to uncover through sources and background checks, Dr. Dalbergue was the Directeur Medicale (Medical Director) of a drug distributor, Martin & Harris Pvt. Ltd. Let’s look at this step by step. Every medical products distributor in the world has a Medical Director, someone who signs off on documentation, occasionally holds pharmacy licenses, and provides advice on medical issues to the partners, principles and executives of the company.

A Medical Director is almost always a critical role in pharmaceutical companies undergoing research and development. Almost every medical or pharmaceutical company must have an MD approve regulatory documents. However, being a Medical Director for a minor pharmaceutical distributor, by itself, lends no credence to a statement that he was deeply involved with Merck. He was not employed by Merck.

Since Martin & Harris was not a primary manufacturer of vaccines, Dr. Dalbergue had little, if any, access to privileged information. As best as I can surmise, Martin & Harris is a defunct distributor of pharmaceuticals from the larger pharmaceutical companies. Just a brief aside in this discussion. Pharmaceutical companies, in general, do not sell directly to hospitals, physicians or pharmacies. Owning and maintaining a huge international distribution network for just a few drugs would be incredibly inefficient and expensive. So, a whole industry of medical products distributors has grown up throughout the world, with the USA having a rather complex system of distribution with separate companies focusing their efforts on either the hospital, physician or retail pharmacy markets (and generally, there is no overlap).

Basically, the distributor gets about 15-30% of the price paid by the hospital for a product. So, if a $40 vaccine is purchased by a physician, the distributor gets around 20% or $8, and the pharmaceutical company around $32. But I’m over simplifying this system because it would be a 50,000 word document to describe the medical distribution system adequately.

The point is that distributors are not owned by the manufactures (actually that’s illegal in the USA), and Big Pharma treats distributors with disdain, sometimes unbridled disgust. Essentially, Big Pharma considers distributors nothing more than truck drivers who take profits away, when in fact, distributors are generally the people who have relationships with the hospitals and physicians. It is a world of love-hate relationships that would surprise most people.

I’m willing to assume that Dr. Dalbergue was a Medical Director for the possibly defunct distributor, because that appears to be public knowledge. But he’s going to have no inside knowledge of what Merck was doing with Gardasil. None at all. The distributor’s truck drivers are going to know as much, and I’m not exaggerating. The information and research at Merck is so highly protected by confidentiality agreements, they wouldn’t pass along data to Dalbergue because he could take that information to GSK, for example. Dr. Dalbergue wouldn’t have any inside knowledge of Merck’s activities, no more or less than I do (though I probably have a LOT more, because of my former life).

A few French speakers have read some of the French language articles about Dr. Dalbergue which has been helpful in understanding better his relationship with Merck. They did indeed acquire Martin & Harris, and terminated all of the executives of the company (something that is typically done, and don’t worry, in these cases, the executives receive substantial payouts), including Dr. Dalbergue. I guess this attempt to denigrate Gardasil is his revenge, because he certainly would have no insider knowledge of the vaccine.

But let’s be clear, unless someone publishes documents disputing what I have written here, I strongly doubt that Dr. Dalbergue had any formal or even informal relationship with Merck. This is simply an invention of a wild imagination.

Furthermore, Dr. Dalbergue’s comments show his absolute lack of knowledge or insight into the safety of HPV vaccines. There is no evidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) being associated with the HPV quadrivalent vaccine. In fact, two massive epidemiological studies, one that included over 300,000 girls, and another with over 500,000, showed no significant major adverse effects after receiving the HPV vaccine. And that includes GBS.

So here we go. The zombie apocalypse of “important Merck researchers” arising out of nowhere to attack Gardasil has travelled to France. Dr. Dalbergue might be a good guy. He may have been misquoted. Maybe he is just another member of the lunatic fringe of vaccine deniers. But there is no evidence that he knows anything more than any of the other antivaccine gang. And there is absolutely no evidence he actually worked for or has any inside knowledge about Merck. And there is plenty of evidence that he knows nothing about Gardasil.

Just another loud mouth without scientific evidence. Apparently, the antivaccination cult is so desperate, it’s inventing titles and pulling unemployed physicians out of the detritus of collapsed distributors to further their cause. But we’ve got Paul Offit, whose rotavirus vaccine will save over 500,000 lives a year. To quote Tony Stark in The Avengers, “we have a Hulk.”

Use the Science-based Vaccine Search Engine.

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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!