Guest: Roy Vagelos, Merck
May 29, 2009
Roy Vagelos may be retired, but he remains a legend all the same. The former Merck leader spoke at this year’s Clinical Trials Congress.
His remarks covered a lot of ground. In a 14-minute podcast, we include two key sections of his presentation.
The first concerns the company’s development of a cure (yes, that’s the right word) for river blindness in sub-Saharan Africa. He provided a succinct and graceful case history of the power of razor edge science—of the real-world impact of the industry’s tools when they are brought to bear in ways that no well-meaning university, government or foundation can match.
The second portion of his talk was more controversial. He refers, in passing, to the blockbuster product of a certain California division of a major Swiss pharma. Vagelos also sounds a polite, gentle warning note about how big the industry is getting. What he has to say about the industry’s pricing policies may cause some readers to squirm. But in a context of a U.S. government facing unprecedented financial constraints, not to mention political pressure for health care reform, the industry may want to consider the words of one of its senior statesmen.