I always get an uneasy feeling when I see a pharmaceutical company doing philanthropic work that will never, ever, EVER, have anything to do with prescribing medication. It seems…seedy. I am especially freaked out by one specific company, Merck (also known as MSD). I wrote two years ago about Merck sponsoring so-called educational campaigns for Marie Stopes, and this year they have cropped up on my radar once again with their new campaign, Merck for Mothers. The U.S. announced it is giving $75 million to a global maternal health initiative partnered with none other than Merck pharmacuticals.
Among other roles, Merck for Mothers, a 10-year $500m initiative, will guide the strategic direction, support on-the-ground programme implementation and evaluation efforts.
Personally, if I were a world power I wouldn’t let the Merck corporation decide anything at all and would certainly not let them “guide” the direction of a global maternal health initiative when there’s money to be made on their end. I find the Merck for Mothers promotional images of underprivileged women and slogans about motherhood rather vulgar considering their track record.
Merck has proven in the past that they can’t exactly be trusted to do what’s in the best interest of people. In 2004, a recall of their drug Vioxx exposed the companies willingness to forego public safety in favour of profits.
For most of the five-and-a-half years it sold Vioxx, Merck knew the drug doubled the risk of cardiovascular problems among users, but it did not tell doctors or patients. Instead, it pursued an active disinformation campaign—telling doctors that Vioxx was safer for the heart than older painkillers (it was not), squashing university scientists who dared to dissent, and withholding clinical trial results that would have definitively proven Vioxx’s risks to federal regulators. In late 2004, after the weight of the evidence became impossible to deny, Merck abruptly pulled Vioxx from the market. […]
According to research published in the Lancet, a British medical journal, Vioxx caused between 88,000 and 140,000 cases of serious heart disease in the United States before Merck withdrew the drug in 2004. Roughly one-half those cases ended in death.
But I shouldn’t really be picking on the poor little $48 billion a year revenuing Merck, this clip about the Vioxx scandal explains that just about no pharmaceutical company operates because of a “commitment to saving lives.” So why should we trust them? And more importantly, why should our doctors and our government officials trust them with anything as important as women’s reproductive health? This may not always apply to individuals (I’m a big fan of forgiveness), but Rene Descartes said, “The senses deceive from time to time, and it is prudent never to trust wholly those who have deceived us even once.”by