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Positions & Policies

Patients are always at the center of our efforts. That’s why we have an inherent commitment to ethics across Research & Development.


Our Commitment to Ethical Practices in R&D

We are committed to create and deliver medicines that can help our patients to live longer and healthier lives.

We carefully conduct medical research and clinical trials to generate important information regarding the medicines we offer.

We adhere to a core set of principles that ensure we only perform research and clinical trials when there is sound, proven scientific methodology to investigate a scientific or medical question that is relevant to patients, healthcare professionals and society as a whole.

Below are some of the principles we are committed to on our goal to bringing meaningful new therapies to patients living with serious diseases. Make sure you also read about our commitment to responsible clinical trial data sharing.

Animal Testing

Before a manufacturer can bring a drug onto the market, it must first prove its safety and efficacy.

International and national laws regulate the type and scope of the data to be submitted to the authorities; they also stipulate that animal experiments must be carried out.

In the pharmaceutical industry, such experiments are justified by the obligation to save human lives and alleviate human suffering – without animal experiments we would not be able to develop drugs.

For us, the prime objective is to minimize the number of test animals. Where possible, we use computer models, cell-culture techniques, or other methods to avoid experimentation on animals.

The performance of animal experiments is strictly monitored by the responsible authorities.

Conduct of Clinical Trials

We are committed to deliver high quality innovative medicines to patients. High quality clinical research is conducted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. When conducting multinational, multi-site trials, in both the industrialized and developing world, we follow the legal, ethical and scientific standards.

Our company only performs clinical trials when there is sound, proven scientific methodology to investigate a scientific or medical question that is relevant to patients, healthcare professionals and society as a whole.

We only enroll the number of participants required to answer the scientific question(s) under investigation.

Overall responsibility for product development and related governance sits with our Head of Development and is supported by a Development Operating Committee.

Our Medical Safety and Ethics Board (MSEB) makes decisions on product safety issues to ensure the best interests of patients are being served. The board is chaired by the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and is composed of other senior physicians and scientists. The Board’s remit is to examine and endorse benefit-risk assessments throughout the entire lifecycle of our products during development and commercialization.

Protecting Patient's Rights in Clinical Trials

We recognize and value the critical role a research participant plays in each clinical trial as the data he/she provides, can be the foundation for tomorrow’s treatments. 

We conduct our clinical trials in a manner that recognizes the importance of protecting the safety of and respecting the research participants.

In order to protect patient safety during the clinical trial process, we collect, analyze, characterize and communicate the safety data of our products on an ongoing and global basis. If applicable, we also look at information from similar drugs for potential safety signals.

We collect adverse-event reports from all over the world as part of our continuous monitoring. We promptly share new findings and emerging concerns with investigators, regulators and/or research participants to appropriately manage risks associated with the use of our medicines.

This type of communication is typically conducted via correspondence with the investigator, updates to the investigator brochure and/or updates to the informed-consent document for the clinical trials affected.

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, requires that clinical investigators obtain and document informed consent, freely given without coercion, from all potential research participants. Participants may only be enrolled in a study after providing their voluntary informed consent.

We are committed to respecting and maintaining the privacy of research participants by ensuring that each individual’s data is deidentified in order to conceal the participant’s identity. We safeguard the confidentiality of each participant’s medical information in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.

Ensuring High-Quality Standards for Conducting Clinical Trials

Our company only performs clinical trials when there is sound, proven scientific methodology to investigate a scientific or medical question that is relevant to patients, healthcare professionals and society as a whole.

Our clinical trials are based on scientifically designed protocols, which balance potential risk to the research participant with the possible benefit to the participant and to society.

Those aspects of a clinical trial that particularly affect the research participants such as inclusion/exclusion criteria, endpoints and choice of control (including active and/or placebo control) are guided by internationally adapted standards, such as the Declaration of Helsinki.

Placebo-controlled trials allow researchers to reliably evaluate safety and efficacy of an experimental treatment while minimizing the number of necessary participants exposed to the treatment.

Regulatory authorities often require the use of placebo as a comparator to treatment in the design of clinical trials. We only conduct placebo controlled trials when there is a genuine uncertainty about the therapeutic merits of the proposed treatments being studied (clinical equipoise) and where doing so does not present an undue risk to the research participant.

For any of our trials that include an active control group, the standard of care provided is equivalent to established and commonly employed treatments that are medically and ethically appropriate for treating the disease.

Conducting Clinical Trials in Vulnerable Populations

We strive for a high protection of all clinical trial participants, however, some research populations are particularly vulnerable and need special protection.

Vulnerable populations are those who are relatively (or absolutely) incapable of protecting their own interests.

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, supports research in vulnerable populations to ensure appropriate use of products and provide healthcare providers with information on the appropriate modality of use in vulnerable populations.

The well-being of the individual is an absolute priority at our company and we involve vulnerable populations only when there is special scientific justification, such as:

  • the research could not be carried out equally well with less vulnerable subjects;
  • the research is intended to obtain knowledge that will lead to appropriate, evidence-based pharmaceutical intervention, where vulnerable populations may be unique (e.g. pediatrics, elderly, etc.);
  • the research will lead to improved diagnosis, prevention or treatment of disease characteristics of, or unique to, the vulnerable class;
  • the risks attached to interventions or procedures that do not hold out the prospect of direct health-related benefit will not exceed those associated with routine medical or psychological examination of such persons.

The research subjects and other members of the vulnerable population from which subjects are recruited will be provided reasonable access to any diagnostic, preventive or therapeutic product that may become available as a result of the research.

When the prospective subjects are unable to give informed consent, their agreement will be supplemented by the permission of their legal guardians or other appropriate representatives and in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations.

Conducting Clinical Trials in Developing Health Care Systems

Regardless of location, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, conducts all its clinical trials in compliance with internationally agreed scientific and ethical standards, in addition to the locally applicable laws and regulations.Historically , the pharmaceutical industry has focused its development activities in the United States and Europe. However, the vast majority of the world's population resides outside these regions.

Our company is actively shifting its development activities to more diverse markets in order to address the health care needs in these regions as well as to support the development of their health care systems.In performing clinical trials in these developing health care systems, we apply the same principles there (sound methodology; importance of issue under investigation; quality and monitoring) that we would apply when conducting such trials in a developed health care system.When we conduct clinical trials in a developing health care system, we

  • only do so in an environment that can follow Good Clinical Practice (GCP), meaning one that has appropriately set-up ethics committees and well-trained clinical investigators who perform the studies in accordance with the GCP principles
  • only address diseases and test innovative medicines that are relevant for the local population
  • conduct clinical trials in countries where there is a reasonable expectation that the drug tested will be submitted for marketing authorization and be made available to patients/subjects after proof of efficacy and safety
  • also assure that enrollment into a clinical trial does not discriminate against participants on the basis of ethnic origin, gender or socio economic status.

Early Access to Experimental Medicines

We aim to secure approval of new, safe and effective medicines for the broadest number of patients. Therefore, we believe that patients should be encouraged to participate in clinical studies. But sometimes, people with life-threatening, chronic or seriously disabling diseases may not be eligible or able to partake. In certain circumstances, we may provide patients with access to unapproved or investigational medicines outside the clinical trial process via Early Access: If a treating physician determines a patient is not eligible or able to participate in a clinical study and the patient has exhausted all available treatment options, the physician may make a formal request for experimental medicine on behalf of the patient. The request will then be evaluated by us, together with the physician. The final approval has to be confirmed by the regulatory authority in the country from which the request came from.

Stem Cell Research

When clear statutory and regulatory requirements are lacking, we collaborate closely with experts to develop appropriate guidelines.

The requirements described in "Stem Cells and Human Cloning Principle" enable us to conduct stem cell research within a strictly defined framework; they thus prevent us from violating applicable laws and regulations while enabling us to work within the framework of established ethical principles.

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is not involved in programs utilizing stem cells or human cloning for therapeutic purposes and does not pursue such approaches.

Infertility Treatment Research

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, initially sought the guidance from its Bioethics Advisory Panel (MBAP) on the legal and ethical guidelines surrounding its Assisted Reproductive Treatment (ART) activities in 2009 and in 2011. The resulting Fertility Research Policy of our company was last revised and approved in 2011. Based on MBAP (Bioethical Advisory Panel of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany) guidance, we are currently revising the Fertility Policy to take into account recent developments in the field. Until the revised Fertility Policy takes effect, we will, of course, continue to support patients’ needs and abide by all applicable laws in this field.

Bioethics Advisory Panel

Bioethical issues are debated in a diverse social environment. Many of these questions are viewed very differently from country to country and are furthermore subject to general shifts in society. Being a global company, we must therefore address these developments at an international level; we must detect the changes and incorporate them into our position on bioethical issues.

In order to do so, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, instituted the Bioethics Advisory Panel (MBAP) in 2011, which convenes at least once a year and consists of renowned bioethics experts. Its members represent a range of pertinent disciplines such as law, theology and medical ethics.

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