Nanotechnology broadly describes the use of very small materialsranging from the extreme size reductions of normal materials to unique, minute substances such as carbon nanotubes and other exotic materials.
We follow advances in nanotechnology because we are always looking for ways to improve patient care as well as protect the environment and the health and safety of our employees. The testing required for all drugs will ensure that nano-based pharmaceuticals are safe and effective for patient use. Based on our current knowledge of nanoparticles, our existing methods for assessing risks to workers and the environment are valid, and our existing controls are well suited to preventing employee exposure.
We are actively pursuing nanotechnology through internal research and development, and through external collaborations with academia, biotechnology companies and companies that support the drug discovery and development of novel therapeutics. Nanotechnology may be used in such applications as therapeutic targets; biomarker identification; analytical test identification; enhanced drug delivery to specific tissues and tissue compartments; molecular imaging to monitor the fate of therapeutic agents; and the development of novel therapeutic approaches and molecules.
For example, Merck coats a new class of experimental drugs (siRNAs) with lipids for efficient delivery to the insides of cells, where siRNAs are active. One of our products, EMEND® (aprepitant), also uses a nanoscale milling approach to make its granules very small so that they are more easily absorbed by the digestive tract. And in our Animal Health division (Intervet), nanoscale milling is used for the active ingredient in PANACUR® (fenbendazole) to produce a stable and more easily re-suspendable formulation.
Finally, some Coppertone® products from the Merck Consumer Care Division contain micronized zinc oxide, which provides improved broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection from the sun's damaging rays, reducing the risk of sunburn, early skin aging and skin cancer. Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide (TiO2) and zinc oxide (ZnO) have been extensively studied, and current scientific data, including our own studies, demonstrate that skin contact with these particles does not represent a health concern.