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, and if we have remembered that, they have never failed to appear.
The better we have remembered it, the larger they have been”, said George Merck, son of the company’s founder and its former chairman. In fact, Merck employees found the words inspirational. Setting a goal to alleviate the pain of millions of afflicted people in the Third World will consolidate the company’s culture and uplift employees’ morale. In addition to that, this is not the first time that the company will give something back to the community:
Merck had already donated considerable quantities of streptomycin to Japan, which had faced especially high levels of tuberculosis in the aftermath of the World War II — a philanthropy that was repeated in 1958 when the Merck Medical Outreach Program donated antibiotics, antiparasitic agents and vaccines for humanitarian efforts in developing countries and disaster zones (Rea, Zhang, & Baras, 2010) That is to say, if the company sees this program through, it will do a great service to the world once again.
Second of all, the approval of the pursuit of the human version of ivermactin does not mean that he has to fund the program all at once or fund it with a big amount of money that will consequently affect other developments or other lines of production. The funding can be from the profits that the company made in the previous year. In fact, according to the case, annual net revenue has increased every year in the past ten years. The funding for this project can be some kind of a long-term plan.
It is better to initiate the funding that last a long time than not at all. Moreover, the profits of the animal version of ivermactin may prove to be profitable enough to actually cover the cost of the development of the human version one Finally, the consequence of rejecting this project will not affect only to Vegalos, but also to the company as a whole. The image and core values that the company had been trying to build over the years might be diminished in just a day by an executive making a wrong decision. It is Dr. Vegalos’s responsibility to pursue such a project that may turn out to be a significant breakthrough for the human race.
Donaldson, T. , & Werhane, P. (2008). Case Study: Merck & Co. , Inc. In T. Donaldson, P. Werhane, & Z. Van, Ethical Issues in Business (p. 251). Pearson Prentice Hall. Retrieved from http://www. andrews. edu/~tidwell/bsad560/Case-Merck. html Rea, P. , Zhang, V. , & Baras, Y. (2010, July/August ). Ivermectin and River Blindness. American Scientist, 98(4).