Merck River Blindness Case Study Ethics

Dr. Vagelos said Merck decided to make the drug, Mectizan (known generically as ivermectin), available without charge because those who need it the most could not afford to pay for it.

Taken orally, the drug paralyzes and sterilizes the parasitic worm that causes the illness, Merck officials said. The disease is spread by bites of the black fly, which breeds in fast-flowing rivers, hence the name river blindness. The worm can live in the human body for many years and can grow to two feet in length, producing millions of larvae. Infected people suffer severe itching, skin nodules and a variety of eye lesions. Extreme cases result in blindness.

John Doorley, the executive director of corporate communications for Merck, said the drug would be distributed by Merck with the advice of a review board to be established by the company and the World Health Organization. The organization will distribute the drug within the countries involved.

The medicine kills the worm's larvae and prevents the adult worms from reproducing.

The drug is safe and has minor side effects, Merck spokesmen said. There are reports in some patients of fever, tenderness of lymph nodes and mild hypotension, according to a Merck press release.

The drug would not restore the sight of people already blinded by the disease, but will prevent others from reaching that stage, Dr. Vagelos said.

The drug was developed by Merck, company officials said, and it was previously used to kill worms in livestock and dogs.

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Essay on Merck and Co., River Blindness

1531 WordsNov 14th, 20117 Pages

Merck and Co., River Blindness
Ethical Case Analysis
Lennard de Jong
Excelsior College

Author Note
This paper was prepared for Business Ethics, Ethical Case Analysis, taught by Dr. Moser.

Introduction and Situational Analysis
The ethical dilemma in Merck and River Blindness is whether to pursue research that may or may result in profit, or to choose the safe option and go for profit rather than researching the drug. The drug could possibly lead to curing the deadly and detrimental disease known as River Blindness. The drug would kill the parasites that cause the disease. The qualm to this is that, the consumers of the drug could not pay for the medication. This would result in no profit. This is the flip side of the…show more content…

The company’s website states on their responsibility page that, “Because millions of people around the world depend on our products, we have high standards for how we should conduct ourselves as a company.” ("Ethics and transparancy," 2010). Going off of their core value system and their philosophical statement, made by George W. Merck in 1950, investing without concern for profit, would be following in their values. Their company made a statement that profit would not be their main goal. Not investing would show that they do not place any moral obligations with their own values. This would portray the company as only out for profit rather than a company that cares first and foremost for their consumers.
By investing in the River Blindness clinical research, they would not be able to show a return of profit for their investors. Merck and Co. has a moral obligation to show revenue for the money they were given, they would not be able to fulfill such a duty. The morally right decision

would be to invest in the research, ignoring the possibility of lost profits. The scientists would receive the resources needed to continue the research which they are already morally invested in. By not providing the money and resources needed, the scientists would be required to drop the progress that they had already

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