B-M to plough ahead with HPV campaign

BRUSSELS/LONDON: Burson-Marsteller Brussels this week pledged to continue lobbying for the introduction of a new NHS screening test for the human papilloma virus (HPV), despite a UK press report last weekend that was heavily critical of the campaign’s tactics.

B-M’s campaign – which it is running on behalf of US biotech firm Digene – is being conducted through the creation of a group called the European Women for HPV Testing.

However, The Observer has questioned the extent to which celebrity ‘members’ listed on the group’s website – such as Carol Vorderman and Caprice – were backing the campaign and were aware of Digene’s links with it.

This Monday (26 January), B-M delivered a letter from its solicitors, Hammonds, to The Observer, accusing the paper of publishing a ‘seriously defamatory’ article.

B-M said the celebrities were aware of Digene’s backing for the campaign and the fact that Digene was closely linked to HPV testing and the Women for HPV Testing group was ‘obvious to anyone from a cursory examination of the background facts’.

Since the weekend, however, names on the ‘members’ section of the European Women for HPV Testing website have been withdrawn and replaced by a message stating they were being ‘re-contacted to confirm their continued support’.

A B-M Brussels spokeswoman said the list of names had been pulled because ‘we wanted to be sure we would not embarrass any of our members’.

The Observer editor Roger Alton said the paper stood by its story.

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