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Health as a universal human right is recognized by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Although government has the primary responsibility for managing a health system that ensures the health of its citizens, pharmaceutical companies have a substantial role to play in realizing this right.

The role of the pharmaceutical industry in respecting and promoting health as a human right is complex. We believe that our most basic role is our core activity of discovering, developing and delivering medicines and vaccines to address unmet medical needs.

We also recognize our ethical duty to support governments in their efforts to protect the right to health by “doing no harm.” We do this in a number of ways, including by:

  • Monitoring and reporting on the safety of our products
  • Providing healthcare workers and consumers with important information on the benefits and side effects of our products
  • Safeguarding the health, safety and privacy of patients involved in our clinical trials

Supporting the Right to Health

Beyond these efforts, we also have the ability—and we believe the responsibility — to support the right to health and to effect positive change. We do this by promoting timely product registration; by helping to improve access to new medicines and vaccines; and through partnerships and public policy advocacy that seek to strengthen healthcare capacity and address deep-rooted and multifaceted barriers to access in ways that are aligned with our business mission and core capabilities.

Others have roles and responsibilities, too. Industrialized countries—where most research in life sciences takes place—must continue to foster innovation by funding basic research and supporting related institutions, and by recognizing the value of innovative medicines and vaccines.

Developing countries also must continue to make healthcare a budget priority; remove taxes and import duties on medicines that unnecessarily raise the price of medications; and limit product diversion to richer countries by price arbitragers. Emerging or middle-income countries should do the same, and also recognize that they can and should pay more than the poorest countries for medicines, rather than take actions that remove incentives for innovation.

Last Updated August 8, 2013