In the face of adversity, we have a choice: we can be bitter, or we can be better (Guest blog)

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused unparalleled social, economic, and health impact upon the lives of patients, carers and healthcare providers. At Merck, we faced this global crisis as we always have during our 352-year long history: with a clear compass, ethics and solidarity. Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have contributed to the fight against the devastating consequences of COVID-19 by sharing resources, equipment and expertise and through strong collaborations, centered around patient organizations.
Supporting patient organizations to run their COVID-19-related projects
The vast spread of misinformation during the pandemic has highlighted the need for reliable, up-to-date information for some of the most vulnerable groups of society, including patients. Patient advocacy groups have been a major driving force in the provision of reliable resources on the physical, mental, and emotional impact of COVID-19 on patients around the globe.
Merck has supported numerous projects led and implemented by patient organizations. This includes the creation of online information hubs serving as a repository of credible and up-to-date information, the facilitation of webinars to help patient organizations and experts connect with their communities, and the dissemination of surveys assessing the impact of COVID-19 on patients around the globe.
Adjusting to the “new normal”
The pandemic and its associated social distancing measures have undoubtedly added to the burden already faced by patients around the globe. The crisis has tested the ability of organizations around the world to collaborate with each other and provide uninterrupted support to communities at risk. Despite these challenges, this pandemic has allowed us to rethink our way of working and where necessary, adapt our approach to supporting patient organizations.
In this regard, we have proactively shortened payment timescales to patient organizations, in order to help them meet the pressing financial hurdles that the pandemic has imposed. In times of social distancing, we have granted patient groups in-kind digital support. One example is the provision of digital expertise for the organization of COVID-19-related informative webinars, which serve as invaluable resources for patients struggling to find the information and advice they need – eg. with Merck in-kind support, Thyroid Federation International launched their YouTube channel with a series of COVID-19 webinars.
Adapting purpose-driven initiatives such as ‘Embracing Carers’  to COVID-19
Informal carers, many of them doing their job for free and with minimal support, have played a crucial part in the long-term care of countless numbers of patients. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the social, health, and employment conditions of informal carers, rendering this often side-lined group even more vulnerable and isolated during the pandemic.
Merck remains committed to supporting informal carers and believes that a thorough understanding of the unique challenges that carers face is a necessary first step in efforts to address this group’s economic, healthcare, and employment needs. So we took the decision to adapt our ‘Embracing Carers’ project by committing to a global survey of unpaid male and female carers so as to get a better understanding of the short-and-long-term impact of COVID-19 on carers. In designing this survey, we will consider how the economic, physical and psychological health of carers may be impacted differently across several therapeutic areas, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, mental health, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and others.
Stepping forward with enhanced, targeted assistance
In addition to its devastating impact on healthcare, the COVID-19 crisis has also inflicted unprecedented economic and financial damages to communities around the globe. At Merck, we remain committed to supporting those impacted by this pandemic – whether they are patients, the community, or those on the front lines. At a global level, we have provided material and financial aid to local charitable organizations, or local pharmaceutical associations in 33 countries, to support healthcare frontline workers with protective equipment, sanitizers and diagnostic tools. We have further manufactured and donated more than 245,000 liters of disinfectants in Germany, Switzerland and Brazil, and we donated 2 million respiratory masks globally to medical staff and carers.
In facing this pandemic, we believe that solidarity should be the guiding principle that drives our recovery. Merck remains committed to continuing the fight against the virus through strong collaborations with patient organizations. Now, more than ever, we reaffirm our dedication to supporting these groups.

Mihaela Militaru

Mihaela Militaru is Senior Director, EU Patient Advocacy and Strategic Partnerships, Oncology & Endocrinology...
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