Profitable gifts: a history of the Merck Mectizan donation program and its implications for international health

Perspect Biol Med. Winter 2004;47(1):100-9. doi: 10.1353/pbm.2004.0004.


A unique public/private partnership situated around a pharmaceutical, Merck's Mectizan donation program stands out as an example of corporate philanthropy in the history of the pharmaceutical industry and provides insight into future public/private partnerships in public health. This paper considers the issues Merck faced in the decision to donate Mectizan (ivermectin) and in the subsequent development of the Mectizan donation program, delineating the moral and financial debates that arose within the company. Coming after almost 15 years of donation, this assessment of the program's strengths and shortcomings suggests how the pharmaceutical industry can better serve as a viable partner in improving international health.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Community Health Planning / economics*
  • Community Health Planning / history
  • Developing Countries / economics
  • Drug Industry / economics*
  • Drug Industry / history
  • Financing, Organized* / history
  • Gift Giving*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • International Cooperation
  • Ivermectin / economics*
  • Ivermectin / therapeutic use
  • Onchocerciasis / drug therapy*
  • Onchocerciasis / economics


  • Ivermectin