WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J., May 26, 2006 -
Merck & Co., Inc. will create a new patient assistance program for vaccines, the Company announced today. Through this new program, Merck will provide free vaccines to adults who are uninsured and who are unable to afford vaccines. Merck's vaccines will become available through this program in the third quarter of 2006.
Merck will continue to provide its pediatric vaccines at significantly discounted prices for use in government-funded programs that provide free vaccines to uninsured children and to other children with limited access to vaccines. Outside the United States, Merck is partnering with governments and other third-parties to reduce the traditional decades-long delay between the use of new vaccines in developed countries and the developing world.
"This year, two of Merck's new vaccines are expected to be indicated for use in adults," said Margaret McGlynn, president, Merck Vaccines. "Because very limited funding is available to provide vaccines to uninsured adults, Merck is proud to make vaccines available through this new patient assistance program."
"Removing financial barriers to access to life-saving vaccines for poorer adults is important," said Walter A. Orenstein, M.D., former director of the National Immunization Program and currently the director of the Emory Program for Vaccine Policy and Development and Associate Director of the Emory Vaccine Center. "This program is a bold step to try to assure that lower-income adults can receive the benefits vaccines have to offer."
Merck vaccines will become available to adults in third quarter of 2006
To date, most Merck vaccines have been intended for use in children; Merck's pediatric vaccines are available to uninsured children through the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program and other federal and state-funded programs. Vaccines for adults aged 65 and older are generally covered by Medicare, and Medicaid provides coverage for some adult vaccines as well. However, limited government resources are available to provide vaccines to adults who are uninsured.
This program will be available to physicians in private practice who provide Merck vaccines to patients who meet the criteria for the program: adults who have no insurance coverage and with a limited income [an annual household income that is less than $19,600 for individuals, $26,400 for couples or $40,000 for a family of four (twice the Federal poverty level)]. However, Merck recognizes that sometimes exceptions need to be made based on a patient's individual circumstances. Individuals who do not meet these criteria may still qualify for the vaccine program if both they and their physician attest that the patient has special circumstances of financial and medical hardship. All of Merck's vaccines for adults will be included in the program:
- GARDASIL® [Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus (Types 6, 11, 16, 18) Recombinant Vaccine] (investigational)
- M-M-R® II (Measles, Mumps, and Rubella Virus Vaccine Live)
- PNEUMOVAX® 23 (Pneumococcal Vaccine Polyvalent)
- RECOMBIVAX HB® [Hepatitis B Vaccine (Recombinant)]
- VAQTA® (Hepatitis A Vaccine, Inactivated)
- VARIVAX® [Varicella Virus Vaccine Live (Oka/Merck)]
- ZOSTAVAX® [Zoster Vaccine Live (Oka/Merck)]
How the program will work
To participate in the program, patients will complete forms in their physicians' offices, and these forms will be faxed from participating physicians' offices for processing during the patients' visits. These forms will be processed quickly - with a goal of less than 10 minutes - so that qualifying patients can receive the Merck vaccine during that visit. Further information will be available when the program launches in the third quarter.
Merck will continue to provide discounted pediatric vaccines to VFC program
Since 1994, the VFC program has provided free vaccines to children who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, Native American and to underinsured children who visit Federally Qualified or Rural Health Centers. Merck makes vaccines to help protect children from eight of the 15 diseases for which the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends vaccines - more than any other company. Merck provides our pediatric vaccines to VFC at significantly discounted prices. Through this new patient assistance program for vaccines, Merck will also provide information to parents who seek information about where to find free vaccines for their children who might qualify for one of these government-funded programs.
Merck is also making progress in bringing our new vaccines to the developing world
Merck is making progress to bring our new vaccines to developing world countries as well. Merck is initiating clinical trials and other studies in the developing world this year to assess the use of our vaccines in other environments, and has committed to making our vaccines available at dramatically lower prices in developing world countries. In addition, the Company is working with a range of partners including the Rotavirus Vaccine Project, PATH and other governmental and non-governmental organizations to develop and implement mechanisms for providing access to these vaccines in the developing world.
For example, Merck has already filed for licensure of RotaTeq, Merck's oral vaccine for rotavirus gastroenteritis, in more than 50 countries, and will initiate new efficacy trials of RotaTeq in poorer nations in Africa and Asia later this year. For Gardasil, Merck and the Indian Council of Medical Research announced a collaboration to study GARDASIL in India. Upon completion of the study, the two partners will work together to assess the role of GARDASIL in India and to identify ways of providing access to GARDASIL.
About Merck's Access Programs
Merck was one of the first pharmaceutical companies to pioneer a U.S. patient assistance program more than 50 years ago based on the belief that no one should have to go without necessary medicines because they cannot afford them. In 2005, Merck provided nearly seven million free prescriptions. In 2005, Merck donated more than $400 million worth of medicines and vaccines to address urgent health needs in the developing world and to respond to disaster situations worldwide. For more information, go to www.merckhelps.com.
Merck & Co., Inc. is a global research-driven pharmaceutical company dedicated to putting patients first. Established in 1891, Merck currently discovers, develops, manufactures and markets vaccines and medicines to address unmet medical needs. The Company devotes extensive efforts to increase access to medicines through far-reaching programs that not only donate Merck medicines but help deliver them to the people who need them. Merck also publishes unbiased health information as a not-for-profit service. For more information, visit www.merck.com.
This press release contains "forward-looking statements" as that term is defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. These statements are based on management's current expectations and involve risks and uncertainties, which may cause results to differ materially from those set forth in the statements. The forward-looking statements may include statements regarding product development, product potential or financial performance. No forward-looking statement can be guaranteed, and actual results may differ materially from those projected. Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise. Forward-looking statements in this press release should be evaluated together with the many uncertainties that affect Merck's business, particularly those mentioned in the cautionary statements in Item 1 of Merck's Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2005, and in its periodic reports on Form 10-Q and Form 8-K, which the Company incorporates by reference.