Product donations and philanthropic activities are not stand-alone initiatives. To us, they are part of a broader, holistic approach. We support awareness and education programs as well as capacity and infrastructure building in developing countries in order to ensure sustainable access to medicines as well as improved distribution and use of them.
Our Praziquantel Donation Program (MPDP) is Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany's largest such philanthropic initiative. In 2007, in collaboration with WHO, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany launched this program to combat the parasitic worm disease schistosomiasis, the second most common tropical disease in Africa after malaria. Our program was originally limited to 2017. However, at the end of 2011, we decided to continue its engagement indefinitely. The goal formulated jointly with WHO is to eliminate the worm disease in Africa. For this purpose, we will increase the number of tablets donated in the medium term, raising the total to 250 million tablets annually. Around 100 million children can thus be treated each year.
Medicine donations are not intended to undermine the operational health care systems in the recipient countries and often are not a long-term solution to providing access to medicines. We therefore only donate medicines in response to specific requests if these are endorsed by host governments. We consult with our partners regarding decisions on our medicine donations; these are based on an assessment of the need for the product, as well as its potential benefit for patients and its potential to improve health outcomes.
In general, we conduct our medicine donation activities within developing health care systems. However, in response to emergencies or specific one-time requests, medicines may also be donated to industrialized countries, such as during the earthquake in Japan.
We collaborate with both private and public sector partners on donation campaigns that provide access to health solutions in developing countries. We direct the majority of our medicine donations through global institutions such as WHO and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Only a small portion of our donations are handled locally by our legal entities in response to emergencies or specific requests from ministries of health and charitable organizations.
All medicine donations by Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany are in alignment with the WHO , our company’s Policy and Procedure for Approval and Notifications of Donations and Support, as well as our Code of Conduct and relevant local regulations. Where Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany distributes its products directly, our local management is responsible for ensuring that the products are distributed and used before the labeled expiration dates, and that they are delivered to the intended beneficiaries. Local management must furthermore document the intended delivery as well as the safe disposal of expired products, in compliance with local regulations. When an external partner manages the distribution, we monitor the donation process to ensure compliance with the WHO Guidelines for Medicine Donations.
In China, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany established the Erbitux® China Patients Aid Program, which was primarily targeted at low-income patients with advanced-stage colorectal cancer. In collaboration with the Beijing Red Cross Foundation, the program succeeded in providing this medicine free-of-charge, reaching 510 patients in 97 hospitals across 35 cities in China by the end of 2012.
Improving health infrastructure and awareness
We are committed to supporting health awareness and education programs in developing countries that raise awareness among patients, health care professionals and governments and explain the benefits and proper administration of treatment.
Building capacities and infrastructure in developing countries is also a priority for Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. In this way, we strive to ensure sustainable access to medicines and/or improved distribution and use of them.
Examples include a hospital that we run in Karachie, Pakistan, our support for the Mother and Child Health Program (MCH) run by Terre des Hommes in Sri Lanka, and our support for the largest health education program to date on thyroid diseases in China. As part of our Praziquantel Donation Program, educational material is produced and distributed in order to further promote the prevention of schistosomiasis.
In Kenya, we are supporting the work of a patient organization that is conducting a diabetes awareness campaign. The campaign started in Kenya and will expand into other countries in Africa. It addresses the communities and works in partnership with local stakeholders such as diabetes foundations, health ministries, local hospitals, medical students, and local community partners such as supermarkets. It is part of our three-year Capacity Advancement Program (CAP) in Africa.
The objective of the campaign is to create the awareness required to:
- prevent or stop the spread of diabetes
- improve the early diagnosis of diabetes
- improve the quality of life and reduce complications of the disease.
The campaign has reached 1,000 Kenyans, providing information, free screening and medical check-ups. Patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes have been advised and treated. Mobile messages (SMS) of diabetes health tips will be sent to them. As part of the campaign, shopping guide leaflets for people with diabetes have been distributed in the country’s largest supermarket chains.
Helping people help themselves
In Africa, we are currently setting up the Capacity Advancement Program (CAP). In collaboration with local stakeholders, we are aiming to help build medical skills and capacities locally. The initiative's goal is to improve education for the key players in the health care sector as well as promote the development of health care systems. This involves obtaining a university education and building research skills in both applied as well as clinical research, including clinical trials.
The program is to be rolled out first in Kenya and Namibia and will primarily address the topics of research and development, clinical research, integrity along the supply chain, pharmacovigilance, and scientific education.
In addition to this, via Tomorrow's Trust, we are funding three scholarships in South Africa for underprivileged students planning a career in medicine or pharmacy.