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Names in the News: Merck & Co.

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On Friday, Feb. 2, Texas Gov. Rick Perry signed an executive order mandating that schoolgirls get
vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, making it the first state in the nation to have such a requirement. Lawmakers in at least 17 other states are considering similar proposals this year.

Merck & Co., a New-Jersey based drug company, has the only approved HPV vaccine. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June 2006, Merck's Gardisal vaccinates against strains of the HPV responsible for most cases of cervical cancer.

Since school vaccination requirements are decided mostly by state legislatures, Merck is now targeting the states to pass legislation requiring the use of their vaccine.

To date, Gov. Rick Perry has received $21,000 from the pharmaceutical giant's political action committee. Among gubernatorial candidates who received contributions from Merck, Perry was second only to former California Gov. Gray Davis, who received $28,000.

Since the 2000 election cycle, the drug company has contributed $2.46 million to state-level candidates and party committees, doling their money out almost equally to both parties. Democratic committees received just over $1 million and Republicans $1.4 million. Individuals employed by Merck gave an additional $2.5 million to state-level politics.