African with River Blindness Guided by Child - Getty Images

African with River Blindness Guided by Child - Getty Images

George W. Merck set the standard for his company when he announced, "We try to never forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we remembered that, they have never failed to appear."

When Dr. Roy Vagelos led Merck decades later, he embodied that culture. Dr. Vagelos, a Chemistry major graduate from the University of Pennsylvania and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, he obtained his MD degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. 

A child of Greek Immigrants, Dr. Vagelos considered himself a physician first, a scientist second, and a corporate businessman third. Roy learned about a drug that could eradicate a disease that was blinding millions of Africans. River Blindness was ranked the second most common cause of blindness in the world in 1987.

The tell-tale signs of an afflicted area were small groups of adults led by a rope or stick held by a child. These blind adults were dependent on their children anytime they needed to fetch water, use the bathroom, or prepare dinner. Children as young as two could be seen guiding adults with sticks.

Dr. Vagelos remained haunted by these scenes. “River Blindness occurs in Sub-Saharan Africa among the poorest of the poor.  I will tell you, many of these people, whom my wife and I visited, live in mud huts, and have never left their village in their entire life. These people were being attacked by a parasitic worm. They crawl through the skin and get into the eyes and cause the eyes to become blind – and we had a drug that prevented that completely.”

When he learned that Ivermectin, a drug previously used to treat parasites in animals, could be effective in humans to treat River Blindness, he was more than intrigued. Moreover, only a single pill per year was necessary, and this drug cost mere pennies. The problem was that the poor African villagers could not even afford pennies. Nor could their impoverished governments.

Dr. Vagelos visited President Reagan's White House. He met with Don Reagan, Chief of Staff, and later with John Whitehead, Secretary of State, and asked the US government to fund the humanitarian effort.  "While we would like to do this program, we can't afford it," as Dr. Vagelos wrote in his book, "Medicine, Science and Merck."

As a physician, first and foremost, Dr. Vagelos did the unthinkable. He offered to treat every person who required the Ivermectin for free - for as long as they needed it - all courtesy of the Merck Corporation. 

Now in 2021, decades later, the Mectizan (Ivermectin) Program has expanded and blossomed, with participation by other sponsors, including The WHO and Gates Foundation. Thanks to Dr. Vagelos, the disease has been eradicated in Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala. Merck has now donated more than one billion doses of Ivermectin and saved the sight of tens of millions of people. 

Although George Merck passed away in 1957, he would have smiled upon Dr. Roy Vagelos for his bold and spectacular decision. 

A UNESCO report from 2005 states, "The progress that has been made in combating the disease (river blindness) represents one of the most triumphant public health campaigns ever waged in the developing world.”

Dr. Vagelos has continued giving. He bestowed 250 million dollars to Columbia University's Medical School to help fund students' medical educations. In addition, he contributed 15 million dollars to the University of Pennsylvania to create the Roy and Diana Vagelos Laboratories, and he founded the Vagelos Scholars Program in Molecular Life Sciences. As the author of more than 100 scientific papers, Vagelos was given the NAS Award for Chemistry in Service to Society in 1995.

A tireless worker, the good doctor has served as the Chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals since 1995, and he has nurtured the same moral compass there as he did at Merck. Regeneron's monoclonal antibody cocktail successfully treated President Donald Trump and received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA in November of 2020. 

The cocktail has been praised and utilized by Dr. Peter McCullough and Dr. George Fareed, pioneers in repurposed drugs to treat COVID-19. 

In an interview at Columbia Business School on May 5, 2020, Dr. Valegos offered wisdom about the coronavirus pandemic.

The current issue with COVID-19 is the variants. The emerging new variants of the virus have a competitive advantage over the previous versions. The original Wuhan strain that the vaccine was developed against is no longer around. It is extinct. Today the Indian Delta Variant accounts for 99% of the cases in the United Kingdom and will soon become the dominant strain in the United States. With each new version, the virus becomes more infectious and less vulnerable to the vaccines.

Dr. John Campbell reported that nearly 10% of new Delta Variant hospitalized cases in the UK occurred in vaccinated persons. See the 6:00 mark.

We do not wish to wait another few months to encounter newer variants that will be even more resistant. If we could eradicate the virus quickly, no more variants could emerge. The evidence suggests that Ivermectin is effective against all the variants.

Dr. Vagelos discussed the problem of virus resistance. 

His company solved this for AIDS when he used the combination approach – the idea of using three drugs in combination to prevent resistance from developing. This approach is remarkably similar to Dr. George Fareed’s and Dr. Peter McCullough’s multi-drug approach they have published and used so successfully to save almost all of their patients from COVID-19.

The combination of Ivermectin with Hydroxychloroquine, Doxycycline, and now Fluvoxamine has proven highly effective in observational trials. Dr. George Fareed and Dr. Brian Tyson treated and saved nearly 6,000 COVID-19 patients in California’s Imperial Valley using this approach.

A narrowly tailored single vaccine allows RNA viruses to mutate and evolve resistance, while the multi-drug cocktail prevents this. By simply adding Ivermectin to the vaccines, the world could quickly overcome the problem of variants in a matter of weeks. See the 8:12 mark.

“Ultimately, when you put a combination of three drugs together against a virus, the virus may become resistant to one, but it would be killed by one of the other two…If there are three drugs covering three important enzymes, the chances of that virus becoming resistant to all three is almost impossible…That’s what we’re looking at today, and the result that was achieved there is the result that I anticipate with the coronavirus.”

Ivermectin has proven itself to be safe throughout the Mectizan Donation Program. We know Ivermectin can effectively treat River Blindness. It has been almost completely eradicated worldwide, whereas it was once the second leading cause of blindness. See the 14:20 mark.

We know it is potent. One tiny pill is all that is required per year for effective treatment for River Blindness. In COVID-19, we read that Attorney Ralph Lorigo's court-ordered Ivermectin cases usually came off the ventilator after a single dose of the drug.

In India's recent deadly second pandemic surge, Ivermectin obliterated their crisis. Within weeks after the ICMR and AIIMS adopted Ivermectin, their cases are down 90% [414,188 to 42,640]. Those states with more aggressive Ivermectin use were down more dramatically; Daily cases in Goa, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Delhi were down 95%, 98%, 99%, 99%, respectively. 

Dr. Kory and the FLCCC published a narrative review in the American Journal of Therapeutics in May 2021, showing the massive effectiveness of Ivermectin against COVID-19 in reducing death and cases.  They concluded that it must be adopted globally immediately.

Dr. Tess Lawrie, a highly regarded WHO consultant and the British Ivermectin Development Panel, published a meta-analysis this month that came to a similar conclusion.

Former Director of Intellectual Property at Gilead Pharmaceuticals, Harvard-educated attorney, Brian Remy, wrote this about the necessity of implementing Ivermectin, 

"It is simple - use what works and is most effective - period. Ivermectin used in combination with other therapeutics is a no-brainer and should be the standard of care for COVID-19. Not only would this be good for business and help avoid the criticism and bad PR, and potential civil/criminal liability for censorship, scientific misconduct, etc. for misrepresentation of Ivermectin and other generics, but most importantly it would save countless lives and end the pandemic for good."

Dr. Vagelos was asked if Merck benefitted from its 200 million dollar donation of Ivermectin for River Blindness. He answered, "The benefit (to Merck) was that we could recruit anyone in any part of the company – for decades. People love to work for a corporation who was willing to contribute a sight-saving drug to millions and millions of patients." See the 52:10 mark.

His magnificent program was taught in business schools across the nation as an example of corporate philanthropy. What a fine example it would be if Merck today repeated, and offered Ivermectin to end the COVID-19 Pandemic. Ivermectin and Merck could save the world.

As George W. Merck reminds us, "We try to never forget that medicine is for the people. It is not for the profits. The profits follow, and if we remembered that, they have never failed to appear."

(7) comments


For the record, here is Merck's statement on ivermectin use during the COVID-19 pandemic:


Disinformation. This article misrepresents Merck's laudable record with legitimate uses for ivermectin and disrespects the pioneering commitment of George Merck and Roy Vagelos to global health. I'm forwarding to Merck Corporate Media Relations as an fyi.


I think you misread the article. Dr. Hope is praising Merck's philanthropy in the world effort to cure River Blindness. She is saying Dr. Vagalos would be disappointed the recent turn of events where Merck is insinuating that a drug for which they've produced billions of doses safely for one human ailment is somehow unsafe for another human ailment (COVID-19). This in light of the obvious conflict of interest where they are seeking drug approval for a patent drug as an early COVID therapeutic. It doesn't take a genius to figure out success of their generic Ivermectin would tank the profitability of the new product. If you truly want to inform yourself about Ivermectin vs. reacting with assumptions why don't you check out Dr Tess Lowry or Dr. Pierre Kory?

Frank Lee

Wahnyc is not misreading the article. Dr Hope (if Justus Hope MD is really a doctor, not just someone using a fictitious name) intentionally structured the article to make it appear like he was praising Merck, and then he misrepresented Merck as he slyly accused Merck of great deceipt and essentially crimes against humanity.

Your reply to wahnyc ignores my comment from earlier yesterday, which partially answers why Merck might consider Ivermectin unsafe for COVID.

Personally, I'm open to trials and meta-analyses, but not the conclusions you or Dr Hope have drawn.

If the WHO or individual countries determine that Ivermectin is effective and safe, would they buy Merck's up-and-coming new drug? No. So Merck would gain nothing by claiming that Ivermectin is not safe. Merck would only lose the trust and respect of governments and citizens everywhere, resulting in lower sales.

My trust of big business and government is certainly limited. I'm sure they seek profit / power / prestige / a sense of purpose. But I think the same is true of conspiracy fearmongers. I do trust that the majority of scientists want to have contributed well to humanity.

I value being able to see things from different perspectives. It seems you are only able to see from one perspective.

Are you intentionally distorting the truth? Or are you just prejudiced to only see things thru conspiracy eyes?

Frank Lee

Treatment against COVID, even if effective, would generally require higher doses - two or three times the dose for parasites. The safety and efficacy is not yet proven. If it is, I'll be delighted.


Excellent article. Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.


Excellent article. Unfortunately Merck has already sold a Billion dollars of doses to the US govt. of its Covid treatment drug Molnupiravir. Another expensive and rushed to market proprietary drug through the EAU. By the laws of fiduciary duty to shareholders, Merck cannot support Ivermectin over Molnupirvir as evidenced by its official statement on the Merck website that Ivermectin safety is unknown and the research base is inadequate (a boldfaced lie). Such is the problem of corporate medicine and captured regulatory agencies. History will not look kindly on this episode as numbers do not lie... countries that have adopted Ivermectin have fared orders of magnitude better in outcomes than the US. I hope this will be a lesson in the need for reforming for-profit medicine and our health agencies. It's just too bad so many people have to suffer and die for the cause. Thank you, Dr. Hope for such a well written and sourced article. And thank you for reminding us that corporations can and should choose to be socially and morally responsible.

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