Brand and River Blindness

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Stake for Vagelos as CEO and for Merck as a company in deciding whether to invest in Dr. Campbell’s idea Although Dr. Campbell’s idea of a drug (Ivermectin) that could cure River blindness was a path-breaking opportunity for Merck, the company was faced with a number of ethical, financial and moral issues that forced its CEO to undergo deep thought and contemplation before investing in this idea. * Feasibility: There were concerns about the use of this drug on humans and the potential adverse side effects, if any. * High Costs: The high costs associated with research and development coupled with the fact that the drug was to be used by lower income groups meant that it showed little or no economic promise. * Cannibalization: From a pure business standpoint, Merck worried that this drug could cannibalize profits from the animal version of the drug through the creation of possible black markets in the affected countries. Percentage of research budget that Merck should invest in drugs that will produce a substandard return on investment

As a company that produces drugs to cure diseases in both humans and animals, Merck operates in a complex dynamic that requires it to take decisions that may not lead to profitability. Further, its corporate philosophy always revolved around the fact that the company’s first priority was the safety of people and only then did profits follow. I, therefore, believe that Merck should invest a large amount ( ~80%) of its research budget even on drugs that will produce a substandard ROI, provided the drugs promise to fully cure diseases without harmful side effects and they are the first in the market to do so. This could help them build a strong brand equity, goodwill and reputation in the long run thereby creating a foundation for profitability in future. For instance, I believe that Merck has a social responsibility and a moral obligation to invest heavily in the cure for River...
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