Merck Partners with BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS for Seek and Treat
research program to reduce HIV/AIDS incidence in BC

$1.5-million contribution to evaluate the provincial initiative to expand HIV/AIDS treatment and care in Prince George and Vancouver's Downtown Eastside

VANCOUVER, Feb. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Today, Merck is pleased to announce its $1.5 million funding commitment over three years to the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) in support of its research program entitled "Seek and Treat for Optimal Prevention of HIV/AIDS", known as the "seek & treat" program, which will expand HIV treatment and care for hard-to-reach residents in Prince George and Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

This investment complements the announcement also made today by BC Health Minister Kevin Falcon, regarding the BC government support to this project.

Through the seek and treat research program, health professionals will expand HAART coverage (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) and thereby the treatment and care to HIV-positive people in these marginalized communities.

"The BC-CfE is a pioneer in HIV/AIDS research, and continues to be a leader in the global effort to provide innovative therapies and healthcare strategies to combat this epidemic," said Gregg Szabo, Vice-president, Specialty Products at Merck. "We are proud to support the BC-CfE and honoured to stand along side the B.C. government in this effort to expand care for British Columbians living with HIV/AIDS and reduce further HIV infections in the province and throughout Canada."

The HAART approach, developed in part by Dr. Julio Montaner, director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, involves medication cocktails provided to medically eligible HIV sufferers with the objective being to slow HIV disease progression to AIDS and death. More recently, BC-CfE researchers have found that HAART can also significantly reduce the risk of disease transmission and decrease the overall HIV burden in the community.

"Merck has been involved in AIDS research and treatment since the early nineties. As a leader in treatment for HIV/AIDS, it was natural for our organization to support Dr. Montaner and the BC Centre of Excellence in HIV/AIDS in this world class initiative, of which we believe may lead to best practices in AIDS treatment around the world," added Szabo.

The BC-CfE initially proposed the seek and treat strategy in 2005 and published in the Lancet in 2006. Today, this made-in-B.C. strategy has won widespread acclaim within the global scientific community and endorsement from leading researchers and international health organizations such as the WHO and UNAIDS.

"Funding from Merck for our seek and treat program is critical to winning the fight against HIV/AIDS and identifying best practices for the roll out of the seek and treat strategy locally & globally. This builds on the support the BC-CfE has received from the government of BC to pilot this initiative in the province," said Montaner, who is also head of the division of AIDS in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC and President of the International AIDS Society.

More than 12,000 people in B.C. are living with HIV, many in hard-hit areas such as Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and approximately 27% of them remain undiagnosed.

"Reaching out to people living on the streets, the mentally ill, and those with addictions will help people receive the HIV care and treatment they require, save lives and prevent further infections, making seek and treat a cost-averting proposition," said Montaner.

About the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS

The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC-CfE) is Canada's largest HIV/AIDS research, treatment and education facility. The BC-CfE is based at St Paul's Hospital, Providence Health Care, and a teaching hospital of the University of British Columbia. Located in Vancouver, Canada, the BC-CfE is dedicated to improving the health of British Columbians with HIV through the development, monitoring and dissemination of comprehensive research and treatment programs for HIV and related diseases.

About Merck

Today's Merck is working to help the world be well. Merck is a global health care leader with a diversified portfolio of prescription medicines, vaccines, consumer and animal health products. In Canada, Merck markets over 530 pharmaceutical, consumer and animal health products and is a leader in a broad range of areas such as cardiology, immunology, infectious diseases, respiratory, vaccines, women's health and sun care, and is focused on expanding offerings in other areas, including virology, oncology and diabetes. For more information about our operations in Canada visit www.merckfrosst.com or www.schering-plough.ca.

* Merck Frosst Canada Ltd. and Schering-Plough Canada Inc. are integrating their operations to form a new organization called Merck.

Forward Looking Statement

This news release includes "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such statements may include, but are not limited to, statements about the benefits of the proposed merger between Merck and Schering-Plough, including future financial and operating results, the combined company's plans, objectives, expectations and intentions and other statements that are not historical facts. Such statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Merck's and Schering-Plough's management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. Actual results may differ from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

The following factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ from those set forth in the forward-looking statements: the possibility that the expected synergies from the merger of Merck and Schering-Plough will not be realized, or will not be realized within the expected time period, due to, among other things, the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and pending legislation that could affect the pharmaceutical industry; the risk that the businesses will not be integrated successfully; disruption from the merger making it more difficult to maintain business and operational relationships; Merck's ability to accurately predict future market conditions; dependence on the effectiveness of Merck's patents and other protections for innovative products; the risk of new and changing regulation and health policies in the U.S. and internationally and the exposure to litigation and/or regulatory actions.

Merck undertakes no obligation to publicly update any forward-looking statement, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements can be found in Merck's 2008 Annual Report on Form 10-K, Schering-Plough's Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended Sept. 30, 2009, the proxy statement filed by Merck on June 25, 2009 and each company's other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC's Internet site (www.sec.gov).

SOURCE Merck Canada Inc.

For further information: For further information: Media Contact: Natacha Raphael, Merck, (514) 428-3280, M. (514) 910-3280, natacha_raphael@merck.com; Ethan Pigott, Hill & Knowlton Canada, (416) 413-4744, M. (416) 558-2783, ethan.pigott@hillandknowlton.ca; Ian Noble, Karyo Edelman (on behalf of the BC-CfE), (604) 623-3007 ext. 300, M (604) 809-9650, ian.noble@karyo-edelman.com


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