One of the leading causes of preventable blindness worldwide. Transmitted through the bite of black flies - which live and breed near fast-flowing streams and rivers - and can cause intense itching, permanent skin and eye lesions and, over time, blindness. It has historically been prevalent in remote rural areas of 36 countries in Africa, Latin America, and in Yemen.
Roy Vagelos, then head of the Merck research labs, received a provocative memorandum from a senior researcher in parasitology, Dr. Campbell had made an intriguing observation while working with ivennectin, a new antiparasitic compound under investigation for use in animals.
Campbell thought that ivennectin might be the answer to a disease called river blindness that plagued millions in the Third World. But to find out if Campbell's hypothesis had merit, Merck would have to spend millions of dollars to develop the right formulation for human use and to conduct the field trials in the most remote parts of the world.
Even if these efforts produced an effective and safe drug, virtually none of those afflicted with river blindness could afford to buy it. Vagelos, originally a university researcher but by then a Merck executive, had to decide whether to invest in research for a drug that, even if successful, might never pay for itself.
River Blindness River blindness, formally known as onchocerciasis, was a disease labeled by the World Health Organization WHO as a public health and socioeconomic problem of considerable magnitude in over 35 developing countries throughout the Third World. Some 85 million people in thousands of tiny settlements throughout Africa and parts of the Middle East and Latin America were thought to be at risk.
When the flies bit humans — a single person could be bitten thousands of times a day — the larvae of a parasitic worm, Onchocerca volvulus, entered the body.
These worms grew to more than two feet in length, causing grotesque but relatively innocuous nodules in the skin.
The real harm began when the adult worms reproduced, releasing millions of microscopic offspring, known as microfilariae, which swarmed through body tissue. A terrible itching resulted, so bad that some victims committed suicide. After several years, the microfilariae caused lesions and depigmentation of the skin.
Eventually they invaded the eyes, often causing blindness. The World Health Organization estimated in that somepeople were blind because of onchocerciasis, and that a million more suffered from varying degrees of visual impairment. At that time, 18 million or more people were infected with the parasite, though half did not yet have serious symptoms.
In some villages close to fly-breeding sites, nearly all residents were infected and a majority of those over age 45 were blind. In such places, it was said, children believed that severe itching, skin infections, and blindness were simply part of growing up.
In desperate efforts to escape the flies, entire villages abandoned fertile areas near rivers, and moved to poorer land. As a result, food shortages were frequent.
Community life disintegrated as new burdens arose for already impoverished families. The disease was first identified in by scientists and in was found to be related to the black flies. But by the s, there was still no cure that could safely be used for community-wide treatment.
Two drugs, diethylcarbamazine DEC and Suramin, were useful in killing the parasite, but both had severe side effects in infected individuals, needed close monitoring, and had even caused deaths. Inthe Onchocerciasis Control Program was created to be administered by the World Health Organization, in the hope that the flies could be killed through spraying of larvacides at breeding sites, but success was slow and uncertain.
The flies in many areas developed resistance to the treatment, and were also known to disappear and then reinfest areas. Over three hundred years later, Merck, having become an American firm, employed over 28, people and had operations all over the world.
In the late s, Merck was coming off a year drought in terms of new products.
Gadsden, Merck's chief executive from toalong with his successor, John J. Horan, were concerned that the year patent protection on Merck's two big moneymakers would soon expire, and began investing an enormous amount in research.
Merck management spent a great deal of money on research because it knew that its success ten and twenty years in the future critically depended upon present investments.Merck and Co., River Blindness Ethical Case Analysis Lennard de Jong Excelsior College Author Note This paper was prepared for Business Ethics, Ethical Case .
Answer to Case: Merck and River Blindness Headquartered in New Jersey, Merck & Co. is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies. Course 6 of 7 in the Specialization Global Challenges in Business Global business ethics is the study and analysis of how ethics and global business are connected.
How we should treat each other and our organizations in global and local contexts is the topic of this course. Business ethics and. Former Merck CEO Dr. Roy Vagelos announces the company's commitment to donate Mectizan to treat river blindness for as long as needed - the Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) is formed.
The Mectizan Expert Committee meets for the first time to establish the strategy for distribution and the donation review process. Ethics in Management PHL/ Mr. Ralph Apuan Team A Merck And River Blindness We will talk about: Analyzing and evaluating alternatives.
How alternatives would change if you were working in a foreign country? Aug 07, · A case study Spanish Review of the Book, “The Thief” Ethical dilemma and business ethics- A case study of Merck and Co.
and river blindness August 7,