Merck Chairman and CEO Ken Frazier joined President Bill Clinton and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of the Republic of Liberia, to offer perspectives from the private sector during “The Future of Impact,” opening plenary session at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting on Sept. 27.
The conversation was one of several in the session, focused on addressing global challenges and creating opportunity for all through high-impact investment and innovation. Chelsea Clinton and Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko were among speakers sharing ideas on topics including empowering girls and women, advancing youth, alleviating poverty, and supporting technology access and use.
In their discussion of how to strengthen healthcare systems and make progress on pressing issues like the Ebola crisis, maternal mortality and broadening access to vaccines, Presidents Clinton and Sirleaf and Mr. Frazier all stressed that developing the right kinds of partnerships between private and public entities is essential.
“Those of us who are fortunate enough to live in the developed world need to come together — whether you are a government, whether you are an NGO, whether you are a private entity like Merck — and try to develop sustainable answers,” Mr. Frazier said. “It’s one thing to ‘do’ philanthropy. It’s another thing for all of us to come together and make the kinds of investments that we need to make in health and education so that we can truly say that we believe all lives have value around the world.”
President Sirleaf, whose country was among the hardest-hit by the Ebola crisis, agreed, saying first and foremost her country needs healthcare training to help rebuild their healthcare system. “We need to train community workers as primary health responders,” she said.
“People want to be empowered,” echoed President Clinton. “System-building may not be as sexy as running to the rescue in the face of a disaster, but it keeps disasters from happening. And it makes the management of problems part of the ordinary daily life of a country. I cannot tell you how important I think that is.”
When the conversation shifted to the importance of both encouraging investment in the research and development of new medicines and vaccines by private entities like Merck and creating systems that help more people to access them, Mr. Frazier said he believes “the cost of distributing these in an equitable way is a societal burden we should all share in.”
“Companies like mine take huge amount of risk and there’s a huge amount of focus on making sure we are putting those scarce research dollars into those programs that have the greatest opportunity to meet unmet needs and have the greatest technical probability of success,” he said. “The challenge we have is health is not a commodity. It’s something that as a society we want to make sure is available and people’s ability to pay shouldn’t be the barrier to having the medicines and vaccines they need. So the question becomes: ‘How do we develop a system that provides the market incentives to develop new drugs, but at same time plays the right role of society in making sure that they get to everybody?’”
Merck was among several organizations honored with a Clinton Global Citizen Award at the Clinton Global Initiative 2015 Annual Meeting. Merck received The Leadership in Humanitarian Response award for the company's contribution in the global response to the Ebola crisis. Michael Rosenblatt, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of Merck represented the company at the ceremony.
Merck’s efforts to fight the Ebola crisis are just one example of the company’s commitment to corporate responsibility. Learn more about our work from our new Corporate Responsibility Report.