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TAG overview

Global strategy

At least half of the world’s population still does not have adequate access to health. We are striving to make health solutions affordable and accessible, raise awareness of diseases and help people learn how to manage them. We work with committed partners to tackle this complex challenge by researching innovative solutions, developing new approaches and improving existing programs to help people at the point of care.

Our approach to improving healthcare for underserved populations

Our overarching aim is to create a healthier future for all. We use innovation in science and technology to also help improve the health of underserved populations in low- and middle-income countries. To achieve this, we leverage our expertise from all business sectors and collaborate closely with a wide range of partners. We also participate in industry-wide initiatives to develop new approaches.

Our Global Health strategy focuses on the elimination of and malaria as public health problems, and the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and hypertension in low- and middle-income countries.

The strategy is designed to overcome access barriers for underserved populations and communities in those countries in an economically viable and sustainable way, thereby creating shared value. For us, this means developing business models that increase the value and competitiveness of our company by solving unmet health needs and strengthening local health systems.

We follow three core operating principles:

  • Developing innovative solutions: We play a leading role in the elimination of schistosomiasis and we create new, integrated drugs, diagnostics, technology, and vector control solutions for schistosomiasis and malaria.
  • Engaging with cross-sector partners: We participate in multi- global health platforms to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We define partnerships for research and development programs, utilize access alliances, and create opportunities based locally.
  • Creating business opportunities via a shared value approach: We help to sustainably improve the health of underserved populations using our portfolio from across all three of our business sectors.

Using focus programs to address our priority areas, we aim to play a key role in improving health as a leading and reliable partner. In particular, by building capacity across the value chain, we intend to strengthen healthcare systems, making them more resilient to health crises.

Our Access to Health strategy comprises four pillars that guide our access activities:

  • Availability: We research, develop and refine health solutions that address unmet needs, tailoring them to local environments. For example, we are committed to delivering our R&D portfolio of projects by developing and providing access to innovative products and technologies that help tackle infectious diseases.
  • Affordability: We seek to provide assistance to those who are unable to pay for the health solutions they need, for example through our patient access programs. This assistance also includes addressing challenges regarding pricing and intellectual property. Furthermore, we are working on innovative and sustainable access paths for health solutions to fight . For instance, we aim to ensure the affordability of our new pediatric drug to treat schistosomiasis in children under six years old.
  • Awareness: We empower healthcare professionals, communities and patients to make informed decisions and we help raise awareness for diseases and therapies through efforts such as our global awareness campaigns.
  • Accessibility: We promote initiatives that control the cost of goods during product development and production and enable localized health solutions. We also strive to strengthen our supply chains to ensure that medicines reach the people who need them quickly and safely, as demonstrated by our NTDeliver project.

How we are improving access to healthcare

Our Global Health unit leads the implementation of our strategy regarding innovative solutions for infectious diseases and for global access to healthcare. This unit is also responsible for Group-wide initiatives, programs and sponsorships relating to global health topics. Our experts collaborate closely with the Healthcare, Life Science and Performance Materials business sectors to leverage their strengths and competencies effectively. By delivering high quality health solutions, we seek to create long-term value for the business, our stakeholders and society.

The Merck Schistosomiasis Elimination Program guides our efforts to eliminate schistosomiasis in close collaboration with external partners, such as the World Health Organization (WHO). Since 2007, we provided more than one billion tablets to WHO for the treatment of schistosomiasis. The donation is a major part of the integrated and coordinated approach we adopt towards treating and eliminating .

Our Global Health Institute translates science, technology and digital approaches into integrated solutions to strengthen health systems. This means we develop and implement a portfolio of projects for transformative treatments, diagnostics, technologies, and preventive measures against infectious diseases, especially schistosomiasis and malaria. The institute also engages in science and technology activities with local experts. It operates as a social business enterprise to deliver new solutions for the most vulnerable members of society.

Our Access to Health strategy aims to address the health system gaps that prevent underserved populations from receiving healthcare. We coordinate with multiple partners to identify and develop solutions, such as sustainable access business models. This approach applies to neglected and non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries.

Our commitment: Providing a solid basis for access to healthcare

Our commitment to expanding access to healthcare is summarized in our Access to Health Charter. It sets out the following guidelines on:

Every two years, the Access to Medicine Foundation publishes the Access to Medicine Index. It benchmarks 20 of the world’s largest research-based pharmaceutical companies on activities and initiatives that experts consider most relevant for access to medicine in low- and middle-income countries, ranging from Research & Development and Intellectual Property sharing, to capacity building and donations. We use the ranking to inform and guide our access to health strategy and approach.

The Foundation revised the Access to Medicine Index methodology in 2020. The latest Index was published in January 2021. We came in eighth place (previously fourth place). Our position among the top ten confirms our continuous commitment to improving sustainable access to high-quality solutions for all. The ATM Index for 2021 recognized us for our performance in Research & Development, where we ranked fifth. Our leading role in Intellectual Property sharing also received accolades.

We remain committed to the objectives of the London Declaration on Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs), through which participating companies, governments and private organizations promise to help control and ultimately eliminate the top ten most prevalent NTDs. We are engaged in the fight against schistosomiasis.

We are a member of the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) initiative and endorse the BSR Guiding Principles on Access to Healthcare, which provide a framework for us to refine and enhance our Global Health efforts.

Fighting the global Covid-19 pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic is having a substantial impact on low- and middle-income countries. The health systems in several of these countries are already struggling with the dual burden of infectious diseases such as schistosomiasis and malaria, and the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Our Global Health unit spearheads a considerable variety of initiatives to combat the virus and its effects on the world’s most vulnerable countries. These efforts include direct measures, such as the donation of masks and protective equipment to Cameroon, Ethiopia and Tanzania, as well as more sustainable initiatives, e.g. in Ghana and Senegal, that strengthen the overall resilience of health systems against the current and future health crises. Read more about our contribution to this global challenge here.

Partnering to build the resilience of health systems

The private sector is a critical partner in responding to global health threats, such as the current Covid-19 pandemic. Beyond developing novel health solutions, we must ensure that health systems are prepared to address emergencies effectively and deliver care to people in need. We aim to sustainably strengthen prevention, preparedness and resilience of health systems in low- and middle-income countries. Our efforts entail the following aspects:

  • Employing innovative technology targeted to prevent schistosomiasis and malaria and to improve local health-related capabilities
  • Increasing country crisis preparedness by creating scientific and healthcare workforce competencies and capacity through a network of experts
  • Optimizing the monitoring and evaluation of health initiatives at country level through data-processing and digitalization

We apply this approach in our R&D collaborative programs that build local expertise and capacity, as well as in our health educational initiatives with our local partners, primarily in and for several African countries.

Learn more about our focus programs here.

Engaging stakeholders

Partnerships and dialogue are vital to improving access to healthcare. Our partners include multinational organizations, government agencies and NGOs, as well as academic institutions, health industry associations, companies, and independent global health experts.

Alliances for better access to health

Together with 21 other leading pharmaceutical companies, we host the global Access Accelerated initiative, which seeks to improve both the treatment and prevention of non-communicable diseases in low- and middle-income countries. We also joined forces with advocacy groups, such as the Swiss Malaria Group and the Swiss Alliance against Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The Merck Access Dialogue Series is a multi-stakeholder platform for sharing information and exchanging best practices on broadening access to healthcare. The shared ideas inform and drive our access strategy, plan of action and engagements.

Discussions at a global level

In 2020, we continued to engage with key stakeholders to advance global health discussions and address shared challenges such as infectious diseases. We also deepened collaborations with the scientific community through publications and patents as well as by taking on active roles at international, largely virtual, events.

For example, we were panelists in a series of World Health Organization webinars on that flanked the publication of the new NTD roadmap. The webinars were devoted to the topics of innovation and the power of partnerships. We also engaged into the annual meeting of the Coalition for Operational Research on Neglected Tropical Diseases (COR-NTD), fulfilling our role as a leading and reliable partner in the fight against NTDs by providing scientific contribution to the discussions. We were on stage at the Geneva Health Forum to talk, together with our partners, about open innovation to combat infectious diseases.

Schistosomiasis
A parasitic disease spread in warm lakes and ponds by snails that serve as intermediate hosts.
Stakeholder
People or organizations that have a legitimate interest in a company, entitling them to make justified demands. Stakeholders include people such as employees, business partners, neighbors in the vicinity of our sites, and shareholders.
Neglected tropical disease (NTD)
Diseases that occur primarily in low- and middle-income countries. NTDs include schistosomiasis, intestinal worms, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and onchocerciasis. This group of diseases is called neglected because, despite the large number of people affected, they have historically received less attention and research funding than other diseases.
Schistosomiasis
A parasitic disease spread in warm lakes and ponds by snails that serve as intermediate hosts.
Neglected tropical disease (NTD)
Diseases that occur primarily in low- and middle-income countries. NTDs include schistosomiasis, intestinal worms, trachoma, lymphatic filariasis, and onchocerciasis. This group of diseases is called neglected because, despite the large number of people affected, they have historically received less attention and research funding than other diseases.

Information

The current Sustainability Report 2021 can be found here.