Prague Twin

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

River Blindness

Onchocerciasis, or "River Blindness" as it is sometimes called, is a horrible disease caused by a parasite. If affects mostly poor people in sub-Sahara Africa.

Merck, of Vioxx infamy, discovered a drug that had the potential to treat this disease back in 1978. However, they were faced with the dilemma that it would cost about $100 million just to develop the drug which they would probably never recover. They decided to develop it anyway. By 1987, they had successfully developed the drug. No government or NGO would help them with production costs or even distribution, so they decided to produce it for free and distribute it themselves.

Here is a recent update on the progress of their program.

Being generally pessimistic about large corporations, and especially pharmaceutical companies, I was quite surprised to learn of this in my business ethics class.

Way to go Merck. I'll give credit when it's due.




15 Comments:

  • That is an amazing story, being a former nurse involved with various drug companies I'm shockingly pleased by their initiative. My question is, where is the WHO in all this?

    By Anonymous rockync, at 12:50 AM  

  • Sitting on their hands, evidently.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 7:36 AM  

  • Way to go Merck. It's true, corporations aren't always the bad guy.

    Who Hijacked Our Country

    By Blogger Tom Harper, at 7:52 AM  

  • This is a very inspiring story. Thanks for sharing it.

    By Blogger Publia, at 8:52 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger no_slappz, at 7:41 PM  

  • Pharmaceutical companies have a long history of humanitarian acts.

    Of course far too many people will blame drug companies for failing to stamp out all the world's illnesses rather than look at the real problem of disease control:

    The culprit is always the indigenous government.

    Africa swirls with diseases that have been eradicated from the modern world. It is plagued with diseases that wouldn't stand a chance of spreading elsewhere.

    Unfortunately, liberal critics everywhere think profit-making drug companies should give -- free of charge -- endless quantities of drugs to countries run by dictators who won't spend a dime on water treatement.

    If Africa had an adequate supply of clean drinking water, the continent would avoid millions of deaths every year. Millions.

    It boils down to this: the vast public health problems that are found in most African nations would disappear almost overnight if democracy replaced the various thugocracies and kleptocracies that fill the continent.

    Meanwhile, the dictators aren't stupid. They all know if they steal as much of their nation's wealth as possible, softhearted fools will donate money, food and medicine to aid the populations.

    They understand that stealing is their main business and duping the free world into subsidizing them is their second line of work.

    By Blogger no_slappz, at 7:44 PM  

  • PT,

    I have been surprised to learn of all the different things businesses do to improve the environment (social, physical, political, ect.) around them. Judging business just by what makes it in the (widely publicized) news is as inaccurate as it is to swallow whatever else the media says without seeking out the other side of the matter.

    --Stephanie

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:08 PM  

  • I'm late to the party as usual, but let me add my $.02.

    It amazes me that this is the same company that is lobbying hard to convice states to insist on vaccinating young women for HPV, often by having the governors (like Governor Perry of Texas) make it a requirement of school attendence.

    In my opinion, since HPV is an STD that cannot be transmitted casually, such edicts are tantamount to child abuse, and I've called for Merck to be slapped down hard over it.

    By Blogger Kvatch, at 3:16 AM  

  • Kvatch,

    I agree with you on the principle that requiring a vaccination that has not had thorough, long-term testing (it can take decades to know the full effects of some of these vaccinations) is risky. The fact that the vaccination is for an STD had nothing to do with it.

    This STD is one of the, if not the, leading causes of cervical cancer. It's preventable. And it's not contracted only by girls who "misbehave." A woman who saves herself for marriage can marry a man who didn't and still get the disease and die from it. If that can be prevented, why not?!? Should we "punish" people for unsafe sexual behavior by refusing to prevent STDs when we can, as a society?

    However, imo, it's way too early to jump on the vaccination band-wagon. For girls who are at-risk, as determined by their parents, the risks of the vaccination may out-weigh the risks not to have it, at this point. But, it's still too early for a mass-vaccination. It just hasn't been around long enough.

    --Stephanie

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:32 AM  

  • kvatch, you wrote:

    "...to convice states to insist on vaccinating young women for HPV, often by having the governors (like Governor Perry of Texas) make it a requirement of school attendence."

    As usual, you got it wrong. The HPV vaccination is NOT a requirement of school attendance.

    Parents have the last word on their daughters' innoculation. They can OPT OUT of the program. There is no forced vaccination program underway.

    By the way, how is polio contracted? Must a person touch a victim to become the next victim? Or is it transmitted in some other fashion?

    While it's certain we must determine the safety of vaccines before wide use, why would you believe that moronic parents are better judges of the health hazards of vaccines versus the illnesses they prevent?

    IN New York City there are many parents who have refused to allow their children to receive many widely used vaccinations.

    Guess what? Those kids are not denied access to public school. In fact, it's impossible to keep a kid out of public school for reasons related to preventive medicine.

    Kids with AIDS are not denied access to public school. Thus, you have once again succumbed to these radical ideas that seem plausible at first, but, in fact, are not.

    Public school systems will not create their own truancy problem. If they went the route of barring kids for lack of vaccinations, every kid from a family of Christian Scientists would get booted from school, as would thousands of NYC kids whose parents refuse to accept any government directives aimed at public welfare.

    On the other hand, private schools can bar any kid from campus.

    By Blogger no_slappz, at 5:33 PM  

  • Hey, pt, how's school going?

    By Blogger reality-based educator, at 1:10 PM  

  • no slapzz makes some very good points. As he father of two daughters who has recently had them vaccinated for HPV, I have concluded that any parent who would fail to prevent the possibility of his or her daughter contracting ovarian cancer, has his or her cranium very far up their fundament.

    I am also of an age no far removed from polio which deprived my mother of the use of her legs and dominant right arm, putting her in a wheel chair until her death at the age of 53.

    So far as Africa is concerned, no slapzz, there are reasons why democracy has failed to flourish. They are the same reasons why it will fail in Iraq.

    Democracy succeeeds in countries in which people's loyalties are to their institutions of government. It does not thrive in countries in which people's greatest loyalties are to their family, tribe, or sect.

    Ergo, democracy has a dfficult time succceeding in tribal societies. South Africa affords some hope.

    By Anonymous Captain Apocalypse, at 3:17 PM  

  • no slapzz makes some very good points. As he father of two daughters who has recently had them vaccinated for HPV, I have concluded that any parent who would fail to prevent the possibility of his or her daughter contracting ovarian cancer, has his or her cranium very far up their fundament.

    I am also of an age no far removed from polio which deprived my mother of the use of her legs and dominant right arm, putting her in a wheel chair until her death at the age of 53.

    So far as Africa is concerned, no slapzz, there are reasons why democracy has failed to flourish. They are the same reasons why it will fail in Iraq.

    Democracy succeeeds in countries in which people's loyalties are to their institutions of government. It does not thrive in countries in which people's greatest loyalties are to their family, tribe, or sect.

    Ergo, democracy has a dfficult time succceeding in tribal societies. South Africa affords some hope.

    By Anonymous Captain Apocalypse, at 3:18 PM  

  • Captain Apocalypse

    It is unlikely that we can pin down the success or failures of democracy to anyone thing, and I must take issue with your charge that democracy cannot be conceived in environments in which people's greatest loyalties are to their family, tribe, or sect. This notion would require one to believe that American colonists had a greater loyalty to the House of Burgess than it did their own families, or that the French somehow had a greater love for the Monarchy than it did for its own families when in fact it would seem that with the French at least, it was their total disdain for their institutions of government that in fact fulminated their revolution towards a democracy.

    Sadly it is unlikely that any African population without ready access to arms or the willing help of an armed ally will ever find its way out from under the thumb of the “various thugocracies”, and these “various thugocracies” in conjunction with the U.N. are going to make damned certain that their subjects will never be armed.

    With American victories like Korea still largely being taught as American failures it is unlikely that the indoctrinated masses emerging from America’s education system will ever see American military involvement as anything other than “wrong”, hence the precipitous American pull-out of the largely humanitarian effort in Somalia at the first sight of American blood.

    By Blogger Lysander Cadwalader, at 2:52 AM  

  • As usual, you got it wrong. The HPV vaccination is NOT a requirement of school attendance.

    And as usual, at least for you, you lower yourself to gratuitous insults without the facts to back them up. This was exactly the intent and wording of Governor Perry's edict, one that he was forced to retract after the legislature rebelled. It was also the intent and wording of the executive order that Merck tried to push on Governor Schwarzenegger.

    Do a bit of digging before you shoot your mouth off next time.

    By Blogger Kvatch, at 3:03 AM  

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