They were calling for the universal take-up of the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, the only one on the market, which is manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur.
And guess what? The rally and support campaign were funded entirely by Sanofi Pasteur, who have so far put in more than lb1 million ($1.9m) to get their new vaccine adopted by governments. They paid for the travel expenses of most of those who attended the rally in Paris, which was heralded as "the first global summit against cervical cancer", and some also received an attendance fee.
Sanofi Pasteur's tactics have been likened to a "battering ram", although they are hardly different from any other drug company.
True, early trials suggested the vaccine provides protection against four common types of human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical and vulval pre-cancers and genital warts, but nobody is sure of the vaccine's longterm health risks.
Health officials are also concerned that a mass vaccine programme would also deflect against adult screening, which they view as being equally as important.
But throw enough money at something, and any minor resistance gets trampled over, as can be witnessed in the USA where 20 states are planning to make the vaccine compulsory despite the concerns of parents. That's science for you.
(Source: The Guardian, March 26, 2007).
E-news broadcast 29 March 2007 No.346 [Subscribe]