Tag Archives: Merck donates $3.75 billion to river blindness initiative CEO Clark Jimmy Carter Guatemala Carter Center July 20 2009 January 24 November 11 2010

Very Fair — And Pro-Pharma — Points, In Forbes This Morning

Okay — quickly this morning, as I run off to other meetings, I just wanted to point readers to the piece written by John LaMattina (a retired pharma guy), in Forbes. His is in response to a Guardian (UK) article over the weekend. Do go read both. Certainly, The Guardian is right insofar as HPV is not — in any way — a serious morbidity threat (compared to other causes) in, for example, Rwanda.

I’ll leave the point-counterpoint at that, but will note that it is refreshing to see a balanced view articulated here, by a former pharma maven. And — lest we too soon forget — my graphic at right reminds that Merck is day by day reversing river blindness in Africa, entirely for free — now, more than two decades on. And that, my friends, is a very high-impact donation, from a public health perspective.

Enough. Do go read it all — but a bit is here:

. . . .Industry critics would prefer that companies work in conjunction with the developing world to bring forward medicines that would be more cost-effective in meeting their needs. Rather than having Pharma “push” medicines that they already have in their portfolios into the developing world, countries would prefer it if Pharma would work on diseases that predominate in these regions.

Well, that’s not a bad suggestion. In fact, it would surprise a lot of people to know the broad extent that Pharma is already doing this. . . .

To be sure, this is always a delicate balance — between being responsible for maximizing quarter-by-quarter profits (for the company’s public shareholders, as required by applicable corporate law) and creating long-term reputational “goodwill” value. . . also for the public shareholders, by curing diseases for which there is unlikely ever to be a profitable market model. But because that latter bit is less easily quantified, pharma concerns open themselves to criticism, and perhaps even lawsuits, for breach of fiduciary duty, if they too vigorously pursue profit-less disease states — for cures, especially in the far-flung corners of the globe.

But these are initiatives that pharma simply must continue to pursue — if the industry wishes to preserve its legitimacy — in the now emerging claims to circumvent patents on drugs (which are, afterall, 17 year monopoly powers — for self-developed molecules) in some of these same geographies, around the globe.

At the end of the day, we aren’t talking about fun tech gadgets — for the ultra-wealthy — in country (luxury items, like an iPhone 5, or the like). No, we are talking about medicines that decide (in many geographies, into the low millions of lives) who lives on into adulthood — and who dies. At least, that is my opinion.

Additional Credit — To Legacy Merck — Where Credit Is Due: Mectizan® Donations Ending River Blindness

Merck is out with a press release, this morning, and while I might cynically attribute the item as calculated to coincide with the New York Times’ morning Graves Fosamax® ONJ trial story — I must also give direct credit to Merck, for this very worthy 20 year initiative:

. . . .Public health officials at the 20th Inter-American Conference on Onchocerciasis in Antigua, Guatemala, confirmed that more than one-third of all Latin Americans who ran the risk of contracting river blindness (onchocerciasis), a leading cause of preventable blindness, are no longer at risk.

Officials attribute the successes in Latin America to a sustained public-private partnership led by the Carter Center that offers drug treatment and health education. The Carter Center — through its sponsorship of the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program of the Americas (OEPA) — assists national ministries of health in six affected countries in Latin America to conduct health education and distribute Merck’s medicine Mectizan® (Ivermectin).

“Our continued progress toward eliminating river blindness is bringing improved health to hundreds of thousands of people in the Americas and the preservation of vision for future generations,” said former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. “With continued focus, we can ensure that river blindness will no longer be a threat to people in the Western Hemisphere.”

“Merck has donated Mectizan for more than 20 years and will continue to do so until river blindness becomes a disease of the past,” said Richard T. Clark, chairman and CEO of Merck. . . .

This is an anstonishingly humane giveaway by the world’s second largest pharma player — and it will approach $5 billion in aggregated donations from Merck, over 20 plus years — sometime in mid-2011.