Merck & Co., Inc. Case
If one hold a key to resolve a very serious problem, one has a responsibility to put an effort to make it happen, at least try one’s best. In this case, river blindness disease was a very serious problem, and Dr. Vagelos was the one who could make a decision as to whether the research and development of a human version of ivermectin should be carried on, then it was his responsibility to pursue it.
Caused by a parasitic worm carried by a tiny black fly, the disease brought about visual impairment and skin lesions to millions of people. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated in 1978 that some 340,000 people were blind because of onchocerciasis, and that a million more were suffered from various degrees of visual impairment. At the time, 18 million or more people were infected with the parasite, though half did not yet have serious symptoms (Donaldson & Werhane, 2008). Although the disease was first identified in 1893, there had not been a success in producing a drug that could vanquish it until Dr. Campbell’s promising recent discovery.
Technically, it is not Vegalos’s direct responsibility to pursue the research and development (R&D) toward a treatment for river blindness. That is, he has no obligation to see this project through nor will he be punished in light of his refusal to the research. Even if he did decide to ditch the R&D of human version of ivermactin, it could be assumed that some major drug company would eventually come up with a feasible solution. It is only a matter of time. However, as a Merck executive, Vegalos should approve the funding for this project even though he realizes that the project will offer little chance of financial return. The following reasons are what he should take into consideration.
First of all, though Merck & Co., Inc. is a for-profit company, it is the company’s core philosophy to think of people before profits. “It is not for the profits. The profits follow,...
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