Overnight, one of my anonymous commenters took me to task for "failing to tell the whole story" -- about the just-released Access to Medicines 2010 Report, and Merck's very high scoring on it.
This is newsworthy, indeed -- Merck's Mectizan® river blindness initiative is almost unfathomably generous and humane -- but there is much more to laud, about Merck's work in this area, generally. From the full-text report, then [and, click image at right to biggify graphic]:
. . . .Merck has three innovative in-house investigative candidates in its pipeline related to the Index Diseases (two compounds for diarrheal diseases and one investigative candidate for lower respiratory tract infec-tions). To address diarrheal diseases, Merck is carrying out a Developing World study of its RotaTeq vaccine in infants up to 12 weeks (currently in phase III clinical trials). Merck is also one of the few companies currently carrying out discovery research for dengue and the only Index 2010 company to carry out discovery research for meningitis. The Index only includes innovative R&D for non-communicable diseases where the primary purpose is to fulfill an unmet need in the Index Conditions, since R&D for non-communicable diseases tends to be conducted primarily for developed country needs. Overall, Merck’s innovative research pipeline is well above average compared to sector peers. . . .
Yet Merck is perhaps most well-known for its long-standing MECTIZAN Donation Program for treatment of river blindness (onchocerciasis) and Elephantitis (lymphatic filariasis). Begun in October 1987, Merck committed to donate MECTIZAN to treat river blindness for as long as required and wherever needed -- until the disease has been eliminated worldwide. Due mainly to Merck’s efforts in this area, transmission of river blind-ness is expected to cease in the Americas by 2012 and Merck and supporting partners plan to achieve 100% geographic coverage for all affected individuals with river blindness by 2015. The program was expanded in 1998 to include another ID -- Elephantitis (lymphatic filariasis) which is treated using Merck’s MECTIZAN in conjunction with GSK’s albendazole. Elephantitis is expected to be eliminated as a public health issue by 2020. To date, Merck has donated 2.5 billion in tablets (worth $3.9 billion) and has invested $35 million in financial support to date for the program. In line with best practices, Merck has a method for ensuring that donated products reach their targeted countries. For MECTIZAN Merck ensures that donations reach their intended destinations by requiring that a certificate of receipt be signed by the receiving in-country organization, which is above average compared to other companies. . . .
Okay, then -- credit -- where credit is due.