Printer Friendly


 WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. P. Roy Vagelos, M.D., chairman of Merck & Co., Inc. (NYSE: MRK), the world's largest pharmaceutical company, was honored for that company's ongoing donation of a medicine for treating the devastating tropical disease, River Blindness.
 "We honor Merck's humanitarian contribution to the prevention and cure of blindness," said Walter E. Beach, president of the International Eye Foundation (IEF) board of directors, in announcing the award during that group's annual charity gala, known as the Eye Ball.
 "Over the past 10 years," Beach continued, "Merck has led the way by developing and testing a drug call MECTIZAN -- the strongest weapon discovered to date to fight onchocerciasis (otherwise known as River Blindness), a terrible disease which blinds people in the prime of their lives."
 Beach presented the foundation's first Humanitarian Award to Vagelos during the event, held Tuesday, Oct. 19, at the historic Willard Hotel, which attracted numerous congressmen and members of the Diplomatic Corps.
 In accepting the award on behalf of Vagelos, who was unable to attend due to prior commitments outside the country, Merck Senior Vice President John L. Zabriskie, Ph.D., said, "Without the partnership of the IEF and other organizations working in onchocerciasis endemic areas, Merck's drug MECTIZAN would not reach the people who need it."
 The IEF was the first American eye care organization to begin distributing MECTIZAN. Those efforts began in 1989 in Guatemala and, in coordination with Africare, in Nigeria.
 "These IEF River Blindness efforts have now expanded to four countries. By the end of 1993, health workers in foundation programs will have treated over a half million people."
 In that same period, the total number of people treated with MECTIZAN for onchocerciasis worldwide will surpass 6 million, according to Merck officials. Most of those people are enrolled in ongoing treatment programs and receive treatment once each year, as required.
 In characterizing Merck's donation of MECTIZAN, Beach said: "Many of these people are so poor they could never pay for a drug. After a decade of research and clinical trials, MECTIZAN was determined to be safe and effective for human use.
 "The greatest gesture of all," he continued, "was that Dr. Vagelos and the Merck board of directors decided that Merck would produce and give the drug free of charge, for as long as it is needed for treating onchocerciasis. This was the first gesture of its kind in the world."
 Merck's generosity ranks high among the charitable medical community, featuring additional pharmaceutical donations such as Timoptic, a valuable treatment for glaucoma. But it has been Merck's commitment to produce and provide MECTIZAN free of charge, for as long as it is needed, that has stimulated a resurgence in international charitable giving from other large corporations. As part of its very successful international portfolio, Merck is committed to developing medicines and products for those who would have no other access to care, and it shares with the IEF a dedication to follow through with a distribution strategy that will magnify resulting health improvements.
 The IEF was founded in 1961 by John Harry King Jr., M.D., a pioneer in corneal transplant surgery. It is celebrating its 32nd year in the fight to prevent and cure blindness worldwide. In recognition of its valuable contributions to the fight against blindness, the IEF was the first eye care organization accepted, in 1985, into "official relations" with the World Health Organization.
 The IEF currently operates over 20 major programs in Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe focusing on training of health workers, clinical and surgical services, blindness prevalence surveys, and initiatives to control vitamin A deficiency and River Blindness.
 -0- 11/3/93
 /CONTACT: Maria Hoyt Cashin, public affairs officer, of the International Eye Foundation, 301-986-1830 or, fax, 301-986-1876/

CO: International Eye Foundation; Merck & Co., Inc. ST: District of Columbia IN: MTC HEA SU:

IH-DC -- DC033 -- 0295 11/03/93 16:24 EST
COPYRIGHT 1993 PR Newswire Association LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Nov 3, 1993

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters