Despite significant medical advances in many therapeutic areas, many countries have made limited progress in their level of patient treatment and in providing broad-based access to available therapies. This situation arises in part from the tension between the best clinical practices (as defined by evidence-based medicine) and the pressures of cost containment in publicly financed health systems.
In this context, we believe that our contributions to organizations, such as patient groups and health-related charities and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), are fundamental to our goals and corporate responsibility. Because of the gaps in patient care in such areas as vaccination, heart disease, HIV, hepatitis C infection and other chronic conditions, there is a compelling need for the pharmaceutical industry to work more closely with patient organizations to improve access to accurate, balanced and reliable information about diseases and available therapies.
Merck has a long history of collaboration with patient groups and health-related charities in areas that are relevant to our business, including knowledge and understanding of diseases and treatment options, and information and decision-making among consumers in healthcare.
Because we recognize the legal and reputational risks of inappropriate donations or sponsorships, we have policies and management systems in place to ensure the integrity of our practices. We also comply with all applicable laws and regulations.
Because patients are at the core of health systems, it is especially important to support, or to develop appropriate programs and projects, with patient societies and associations. We believe in collaborating with healthcare stakeholders—including government and other payers, healthcare providers and patient organizations—to support programs that aim to improve patient education and patient care in therapeutic areas where we have expertise.
That’s why we support and participate in programs that help patient organizations increase disease awareness and improve access to medicines and better healthcare. And we work with patient organizations to disseminate and share quality medical, scientific and pharmacoeconomic information, consistent with legal and regulatory obligations and with respect for their independence.
Decisions to contribute funding to patient societies are dependent on:
We believe that patient organizations should be free to seek funding from all appropriate sources, including governments, associations and companies, to increase disease awareness and obtain improved access to medicines and better healthcare. We adhere to all guidelines and regulations that are relevant to relationships with patient organizations and to the provision of information about diseases and available therapies in individual countries.
In 2012, in response to recent stakeholder feedback, we will continue to explore ways to expand our stakeholder engagement processes, build trust with stakeholders, and identify opportunities to gain and share insights with key stakeholders on relevant corporate responsibility issues.