Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), a global leader in infectious diseases, vaccines, and oncology, is going to celebrate its 25th anniversary in Vietnam next year. Already preparing for the occasion, Koen C. Kruijtbosch, chief representative officer, talked to VIR’s Hoang Anh about how MSD’s public-private initiatives impact the lives of people in Vietnam.
MSD is going to celebrate its 25th year in Vietnam. Can you recall the first days of MSD in the country?
|Koen C. Kruijtbosch, chief representative officer |
MSD came to Vietnam in 1996, becoming one of the first US companies to join the Vietnamese market. This early appearance was inspired by the story Great Race of Mercy about relay teams of sled dogs racing against the clock on a 674-mile journey to deliver 300,000 units of antitoxin produced by MSD legacy company H.K. Mulford, despite terrifying conditions and temperatures of 50 degrees below zero.
Our first footprint in the country was vaccines which we have been discovering, developing, and delivering to help prevent disease around the world for over 100 years. In Vietnam, MSD launched four vaccines to prevent diseases caused by mumps-measles-rubella, varicella, HPV, and rotavirus. Those vaccines helping people in Vietnam are great contributions to the Vietnamese public health system.
What are the most notable achievements of MSD in Vietnam?
Immuno-oncology – a new chapter in cancer treatment – is a breakthrough therapy focusing on harnessing the body’s own immune system and empowering it to selectively fight cancer cells. We introduced MSD’s immune-oncology therapy, the first in Vietnam, in December 2018, and launched a programme to support eligible patients to triumph over the disease, which was named the Patient Access Programme.
Moreover, MSD collaborates with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to support the Ministry of Health (MoH) to roll out the HPV vaccination programme in Vietnam. Besides that, the MSD for Mothers Programme is a grant aiming to improve women’s health in Vietnam by providing them with information and/or services enabling them to plan their pregnancy and prevent unsafe abortions.
How have Vietnamese patients benefited from these programmes?
Our immuno-oncology has obtained MoH approvals for 13 indications in nine different types of cancers, and another seven indications are awaiting the MoH’s approval. The programme has been implemented at 17 hospitals nationwide, and eligible cancer patients will receive the support to manage their treatment cost.
With a total budget of $400,000 for three years from 2019 to 2021, the UNFPA-MSD partnership aims to generate quality evidence to inform the development of policies and programmes that address the reduction of the burden of HPV-related diseases and facilitate the scaling up of an HPV vaccination programme in Vietnam in alignment with the priorities of local health authorities.
It also conducts evidence-based advocacy to encourage relevant national and sub-national stakeholders to reduce the burden of HPV-related diseases, including facilitating the gradual scale-up of an HPV vaccination programme. It will also support the creation of a national road map on HPV vaccination in Vietnam.
MSD for Mothers is being implemented over various rounds. In our third round in 2016, we awarded a grant of $1.25 million over three years to a non-governmental organisation to improve women’s health in Vietnam. From 2016 to 2019, 1.2 million women benefitted from information and/or services enabling them to plan their pregnancy and prevent unsafe abortion. We are considering sponsoring an organisation to continue the programme in Vietnam. We will make an official announcement very soon.
Anti-microbial has been an emerging issue recently. What is MSD’s perspective on this and what has MSD been doing to improve the situation?
MSD has supported the implementation of the Anti-microbial Stewardship (AMS) programme in 17 key hospitals then extended the programme to the national level in collaboration with the Medical Service Administration and MoH.
MSD has also introduced digital solutions in the form of digitalAMS mobile apps (used in five hospitals and the Vietnam National Association of Emergency, Intensive Care Medicine and Clinical Toxicology) and the digitalAMS web-based platform (piloted in one hospital) which serves as a quick look-up tool to enhance adhere-to-protocol rates, and as an outcome assessment tool to assist hospital AMS teams to digitalise their monitoring activities, respectively.
Cho Ray hospital, one of the first hospitals to implement AMS, has already demonstrated an increase in compliance rate to hospital antibiotic guidelines in 2016 of 14.5 per cent and 48.6 per cent in antibiotic prophylaxis compared with 2015, leading to significant savings of $2.1 million in 2015 and an additional $1 million in 2016.