The UK Charity spearheading the campaign for vaccinating schoolgirls against the virus which causes cervical cancer has today been challenged to reveal all corporate sources of its funding after threatening a Christian organisation with legal action.
The challenge came after Christian Voice reported on Friday that Jo's Trust received £11,400 in 2006 from Glaxo Smith Kline, who manufacture the vaccine 'Cervarix'.
The Jo's Trust website admits to receiving 'an unrestricted educational grant' from Glaxo and 'support in kind' from both Glaxo and Sanofi Pasteur Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), who make Gardasil, in 2006, but no specific sums are given.
When the National Director of Christian Voice rang Pamela Morton, director of Jo's Trust, to verify the amounts involved in 2006 and 2007, she refused to say and threatened legal action over our reporting.
However, the corporate responsibility section of the GlaxoSmithKline website lists a £1,600 donation to Jo's Trust for presentations at internal GSK meetings, a £5,000 'medical fellowship award' for 'IT and communications', £1,300 so Jo's Trust could attend an international conference on cervical cancer in Paris and a £2,500 'medical fellowship award' to support a Parliamentary Breakfast at the House of Commons on 'the burden and future prevention of cervical cancer'.
Jo's Trust has emerged as the leading proponent for vaccines against cervical cancer, calling for all secondary schoolgirls to be immunised, at a possible cost to the Exchequer of half a billion pounds for the vaccines alone.
The vaccines, which act against certain strains of Human Papilloma Virus, thought to cause both cervical cancer and genital warts, are said to prevent around 70% of cervical cancers. Concerns are however being raised about virus mutation which could increase the 30% of cancers unprotected, the cost-effectiveness of the vaccines, which cost £300 per person, 25 times the cost of MMR, and about their long-term efficacy and safety, in the absence of any long-term trials.
Severe side effects have also been reported in trials on Gardasil, which is currently in the market for the lucrative Government contract. These included three deaths.
Oddly, apart from mentioning the need for continued screening in those vaccinated, there appears to be nothing negative about either Gardasil or Cervarix on the Jo's Trust website. A webpage on the site www.jotrust.co.uk written by Professor Alison Flander and Dr Amanda Tristram of
has no mention whatsoever of any reported side effects in the trials of the vaccines. The question is not even raised, let alone answered.
In its 2006 accounts, Cardiff University acknowledged grants, gifts and donations from a number of companies, including Glaxo Smith Kline and Merck Sharp and Dohme.
Stephen Green, National Director of Christian Voice, said today:
'It is difficult to understand why Jo's Trust, which has been such an effective promoter of anti-HPV vaccines, should not be totally upfront about the financial support it receives from the pharmaceutical industry.
'The absence of openness and the point-blank and bad-tempered refusal of the Trust's Director to be candid about the sums involved makes it possible to draw uncomfortable conclusions. Threats of legal action over disclosure of this story do not help Jo's Trust's position. Christian Voice will not be swayed by attempts at intimidation from reporting on a legitimate matter of public interest.
'As a self-help and support group, Jo's Trust is probably doing good work. But they have taken the wrong road on the vaccine issue. Even after vaccination, women will still have to go for screening, and the exciting development of a new test for the HPV virus itself means screening will be more effective at preventing cervical cancer. Vaccination is beginning to look like yesterday's expensive technology.
'I am sure the Jo's Trust volunteers, many of whom will have personal stories to tell of battling with cervical cancer, generate most of Jo's Trust's money through fund-raising in the community. Nevertheless, questions remain about the rest. I now call on Jo's Trust to disclose all donations and the value of payments in kind they have received from companies and other funding bodies.
'However, I must say that taking money from the pharmaceutical industry was a grave error of judgment in the first place. It has destroyed any image of impartiality in Jo's Trust when its people speak on prevention of cervical cancer. The drug companies will be delighted to have a patients' group lobbying for their vaccines, but the giving of grants and benefits inevitably raises questions about that group's independence. If it had been me, I would not have taken a penny-piece from them.'
Paul Hardiman, Communications Manager of Sanofi Pasteur MSD, said "our sponsorship (of Jo's Trust) is transparent and adheres to the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)'s Code of Practice. " To date, he has failed to disclose, even when pressed, the exact amounts of Sanofi Pasteur MSD's transparent funding.
Glaxo Smith Kline's Communications Manager, David Daley, confirmed the company's 2006 funding of Jo's Trust. We were waiting to hear from him about amounts paid and promised in 2007 as we went to press.
Notes: The new cervical cancer test that could kill off smears: