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Roy Vagelos attacks river blindness

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Sarah Ash

on 9 February 2014

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Transcript of Roy Vagelos attacks river blindness

Roy Vagelos Attacks River Blindness
By: Sarah, Joe, and Camille

Who is Roy Vagelos
Roy Vagelos was a senior executive of the pharmaceutical company Merck, and when his research team discovered a potential cure for river blindness Vagelos was excited at the possibility of saving so many lives. He knew that he was faced with a major dilemma. He could produce a drug that could save millions of lives, but would not produce any commercial value. After much debate for human testing and clinical trials, he got the drug ready for distribution to the world's most impoverished people. Invermectin worked, it was proven to prevent and help cure the disease.
The Dilemma
The shareholders of the company were outraged because they were spending millions of dollars a day creating a drug with a customer base that couldn't pay. Roy was faced with a major dilemma. He had to decide to either lose out profit wise, and give away the drug and save the lives of many. Or, to withhold the drug from the victims of the disease who couldn't afford to pay it.
Roy's Leadership Moment
Vagelos decided, after countless hours of consideration, to give the drug away. He wanted to live by the motto, "Health succeeds wealth". Merck's goal became to have a company that puts patients before profit. In the end, Merck developed and distributed the drug. This moment became known as the " One of the century's greatest medical triumphs."
What is River Blindness?
River blindness is a disease caused by a parasitic worm( Onchocerca volvulus) that is transmitted by biting blackflies that breed in fast-flowing rivers. The adult worms can live up to fifteen years nodules beneath the skin and in the muscles of infected individuals, where they produce millions of worm embryos that invade the skin and other tissues, including the eyes, causing blindness. The drug invermectin, taken in a single oral dose administered once a year, prevents the accumulation of microfilariae in a individual at risk.
Roy's Leadership Skills
What made Roy such a great leader was the fact that he was able to strengthen and re-enforce the public and investor's interest. He created and promoted a positive business culture. And even though it briefly deduced the shareholders returns, in the end, he created a company that has a great public image and reputation. Because Roy was able to create a business based on a foundation of ethics, he created a company that others wanted to work with.
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