INTERVIEW WITH MD MERCK

THE COMPANY GEARS UP FOR FLOOD VICTIMS AND DENGUE AWARENESS CAMPAIGN.

KANWAL SALEEM
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)
Oct 10 - 16, 20
11

Merck is the world's oldest pharmaceutical and chemical company with roots dating back to 1668. With an unconditional commitment to quality, over the decades, Merck has built a reputation as a reliable and trustworthy partner.

Merck has been present in Pakistan for more than 40 years. Merck (Pvt.) Ltd. has state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Quetta and head office in Karachi. The distribution center of the company is based in Lahore.

The production facility in Quetta is involved in the manufacturing and packaging of solids (tablets & capsules), liquids (syrups), injectibles (ampoules) and ointments. The major pharmaceutical therapeutical areas of the company are structured into three business units namely Cardio Metabolic Care & Oncology, Nutrition, Infection & Fertility and Neuro Care. Besides, there is another business unit, which is dealing with chemicals and diagnostics products and services known as performance & life science chemicals.

"Our mission is to provide quality products and services, we have an independent quality assurance/ quality control department that carry out in-process testing, validation, and stability study programs of products. We follow strict international current GMP to ensure quality standards from initial to final stages of production processes. The company is ISO 9001: 2000 certified. With approximately 800 employees in Pakistan, Merck generated sales of over Rs5.4 billion in the year 2010, Abdul Baqy Khan, Managing Director, Merck (Pvt) Ltd said in an interview with Pakistan and Gulf Economist (PAGE) during his visit to Lahore.

About corporate social responsibility of Merck, Abdul Baqy Khan said Merck, which is a leading pharmaceutical company, organized free dengue medical camps across the country and also launched a comprehensive dengue awareness campaign regarding preventive measures against dengue virus. Merck health awareness program "Merck aur sehat sath sath" is a continuing and popular effort of Merck in Pakistan regarding educating masses against various diseases and its prevention.

He said Merck is providing free health-care services to rain-affected persons in Sindh by establishing medical camps in the rain-hit areas of the province. He said medical camps have already been established in some of the areas marooned after rains and the number of centers is being increased aiming to provide free healthcare to the maximum number in the province. The company had allocated a budget of Rs20 million to cater the needs of the earthquake victims.

He further said Merck has been providing free medical facilities on six islands near Karachi. Merck constructed the 12-bed hospital at Baba Bhit island, with in house facilities including Ultrasound, X-Ray, and Operation Theatre etc. Merck has undertaken the responsibility to finance, organize, and manage the hospital for the welfare of the people of the island. About 200 to 250 patients visit the medical centers daily to get medical treatment. He said Merck's CSR's obligations revolve around health, education, social welfare and environment sectors.

According to him, Merck in Pakistan has continued with its CSR initiative for the uplift of health facilities in Balochistan. Construction and expansion of OPD and casualty blocks at Civil Hospital, Quetta is underway. This was an urgent need for the local population of the city where no proper shelter was available for the patients.

He said "Merck (Pvt.) Ltd. is conscious of its social responsibility and continuously supports community health activities for providing better health care for ailing humanity. The company has many projects on the area of health, education, environment and culture in Pakistan. Merck in Pakistan has always been keen to make its due contribution to social development, particularly, in projects related to healthcare. In 2006, Merck (Pvt.) Ltd. executed a complete renovation of the Accident and Emergency Ward of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Islamabad.

The project was accomplished in the shortest possible time, as it had hardly taken off when the Northern Areas were hit by severe earthquake leaving thousands of people dead and many more injured.

The renovation included repair of floors, walls, doors and frames and ceiling, electrical re-wiring and lighting, overhauling of plumbing including tiling with bathroom fixtures, installation of split air-conditioning units and pedestal fans, and addition of a new counter in the nursing station.

All this work was carried out in different sections of the hospital i.e. female & male patient ward, main & small store, changing rooms, nursing station, doctors' room, CMOs' room, recovery room, old & new pharmacy and operation theaters. In line with its corporate social responsibility initiatives, Merck has always been keen to make its due contribution to social development, particularly, in projects related to health care.

In 2006, the company executed complete renovation of two lecture halls at King Edward Medical University, Lahore on modern lines with state of the art technological equipment to provide medical students a world-class learning atmosphere. The renovation included not just installing latest technology, but also, restoring the lost grandeur of centuries old architecture.

Lecture halls were equipped with overhead projectors, multi media projectors, electronically operated screen, VCR, DVD player and custom built teakwood podiums with built-in desktop computer and flat screen LCD monitor. This was not the end, as keeping in mind the extreme hot weather conditions experienced during the summer months, both lecture halls were outfitted with split air-conditioning units to make learning for students more comfortable as well as the overhauling of electrical re-wiring and lighting, microphone, amplifying and speaker system thus providing state-of-the art visual and audio facilities.

He said: "Merck in Pakistan being a good corporate citizen is concerned about health, safety, security, and environment not only for its employees but also the community. Quetta does not have a SOS village. The construction of the village has commenced. With our help, SOS managed to procure land from government of Balochistan for this purpose, which will be a mega project to be completed over the next two years."

He added Merck believes craft and culture has no boundaries. The first initiative in that respect is the Merck Chowk roundabout in Quetta Cantonment area. It is 33 feet granite structure superimposed by super M. Merck is written on marble stone on its four corners.

Highlighting the problems of Pharma Industry, Abdul Baqy Khan said: "Pharma industry is suffering due to price control since last decade. Pakistan's several multinational stopped expansion and more than six pharma companies closed down. Business of multinationals shrank from 80 per cent to 50 per cent of total pharma market. The companies are restoring to budget cuts for their survival due to inflation, electricity, gas, and fuel tariffs while exchange rate of euro has increased substantially in the past one decade."

Mr. Khan further said Merck recently acquired Millipore globally and now Millipore is the life science division of Merck and offers a broad range of innovative, performance products, services, and business relationships that enable customers to succeed in research, development, and production of biotech and pharmaceutical drug therapies. With the successful acquisition and integration of Millipore, Merck has established a world-class partner for the life science industry, he added.

The Merck's managing director pointed out that the pharma industry is facing a very tough time, as the government has not allowed an increase in the prices of medicines since 2001. Merck is the leading multinational company in Pakistan that has been operating for years. Merck is the only multinational company to have established a manufacturing plant in the troubled city of Quetta, Balochistan. Things are going on smoothly at the Quetta plant but we face problems in transportation of raw materials and medicines due to the law and order situation and lack of proper logistics infrastructure, he said.

He further said Merck is also exploring African markets to export medicines after accomplishments in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Maldives as there is huge potential in export sector.