Until We Return, Then… Of Dr. Roy Vagelos

While we post this, Merck is announcing some of its latest pembrolizumab immuno-oncology study data — supporting an additional, first line, lung cancer indication smartly. That’s good current news. And, since we tend to look back from time to time, as we did in 2010, and 2015 — at Dr. Vagelos, we will mention this fine Australian article this morning.

It reminds us that here in the 21st Century, while we can never simply “forget” stockholders, there was a time when leaders focused on the science, first.

The Australian Business Insider piece is notable primarily for its comparison of the legendary Dr. Vagelos, to the far more prosaic Brent Saunders, a more than occassionally tone-deaf Fred Hassan protégé. Do go read it all, as we have followed him closely here as well, over the years. I think the arc of the narrative gets it just right:

. . . .At Merck & Co., in the middle of the 20th century, the idea that patients came before profits, “was a big part of our culture,” said Scott Lucas, who worked in sales at the company for more than 30 years, starting in the 1970s.

Lucas and other workers describe an era of the highest ethical and moral standards. Drug trials were halted over the most tenuous rumour that a similar drug in development by a competitor was running into issues. Sales staff took pains to educate doctors about the downsides of Merck’s treatments.

In the second half of the 20th century, Merck really was a company where shareholder value was the result, not a prime motivation. . . .

Keep it spinning in good karma until we return — and, as a house-keeping note — the project following the bankruptcy of KaloBios is now concluded. Onward, to the Mountain West, by jet this morning — for entirely heart-breaking family duty, through the weekend.

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