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Award-Winning Actress S. Epatha Merkerson and Merck Challenge African Americans with Type 2 Diabetes to Get to Their Goals

KENILWORTH, N.J., March 20, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Merck (NYSE: MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada, and actress S. Epatha Merkerson are bringing the America's Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals program to Memphis, Tennessee to encourage African Americans with type 2 diabetes to know their A1C—their average blood sugar level over the past two to three months—and talk to their doctors about setting and attaining a personal A1C goal. Merkerson, as part of the 13 percent of all African-American adults who have been diagnosed with the disease, will attend the American Diabetes Association's Live Empowered event in Memphis, Tennessee at Tower Center, Clark Tower on March 20 to share her story.

For many people with diabetes, it is recommended by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) that they have an A1C of less than 7 percent to help reduce the risk of complications. For certain individuals, a higher or lower A1C may be more appropriate, which is why it is important for people with diabetes to speak with their health care providers to discuss the A1C goal that is right for them. Nearly half of people with diabetes have an A1C greater than 7 percent.

Merkerson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2003 after having her blood sugar tested at a health fair event and being urged to see her doctor. Despite having a family history of the disease, Merkerson was unaware she had type 2 diabetes. After her diagnosis, Merkerson became serious about her health and worked with her doctor to establish her own A1C goal and develop a personalized diabetes management plan, which included diet, exercise and medication to help her achieve that goal. By sticking to that plan—and making changes with her doctor when necessary—Merkerson has kept her blood sugar under control.  

"I lost my father and grandmother to complications of type 2 diabetes," says Merkerson, "so I learned firsthand how important it is to know your A1C and make a commitment to get to your goal. That's why I'm excited to work with Merck on America's Diabetes Challenge to help urge African Americans to learn about proper blood sugar management and inspire them to set and attain their own A1C goal."

Type 2 diabetes is a significant health concern in the African-American community. Diabetes is the fourth leading cause of death in the community. Nearly 11 percent of the adult population of Tennessee has been diagnosed with diabetes and the African-American community comprises about 63 percent of the Memphis population.

"Many people with type 2 diabetes do not realize that high blood sugar levels over time can lead to serious long-term health problems," said Dr. Robin S. Goland, MD, Co-Director; Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center. "Meal planning, exercise, and medication when prescribed are all important to help people reach their A1C goal. Because diabetes is a progressive disease, sometimes adjustments to the treatment plan are necessary. America's Diabetes Challenge will help inform African Americans with diabetes in Memphis, Tennessee about the importance of working with their doctors to create an individualized treatment plan that is right for them, then track the progress and adjust the plan, if needed, to help them get to their A1C goal."

Most people with diabetes are aware of the importance of controlling high blood sugar, but it's also important for them to understand why blood sugar can sometimes go too low. For people on certain diabetes medications, low blood sugar can be caused by skipping meals or excessive exercise and can make you feel shaky, dizzy, sweaty, hungry, and sometimes, faint. Make sure your doctor explains the signs and symptoms of high and low blood sugar to you and let him or her know if you are experiencing any of those symptoms.

As part of the America's Diabetes Challenge program, Merkerson will be participating in the American Diabetes Association's Live Empowered event in Memphis, Tennessee on March 20 at Tower Center, Clark Tower to share her story and encourage attendees with type 2 diabetes to pledge to work with their doctors to know their A1C and set and attain their own A1C goal. Friends and family can also pledge to challenge their loved ones to get to their A1C goal. People with type 2 diabetes who take the challenge can stay motivated by completing missions and accessing resources available on that will help them work with their doctor to come up with an individualized treatment plan that is right for them.

"We are excited to work with Merck and S. Epatha Merkerson to include America's Diabetes Challenge as part of our Live Empowered event," said Samuel Dagogo-Jack, MD, FRCP, President, Medicine & Science, American Diabetes Association. "The American Diabetes Association is committed to raising awareness of diabetes and providing relevant resources for people with the condition to help them get to their treatment goals. This program is providing important information for African Americans living with type 2 diabetes, as well as their friends and family."

For more information about Merkerson's story, the America's Diabetes Challenge program, and to make a pledge to set and attain your own blood sugar goals, visit can also join the America's Diabetes Challenge community by visiting

About S. Epatha Merkerson
S. Epatha Merkerson is a celebrated film, stage and television actress known for her long-running role as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren in the television series Law & Order. Merkerson has won multiple awards, including an Emmy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild and NAACP Image Award for her work in Lackawanna Blues. Merkerson has also been nominated twice for a Tony Award and later this year will be returning to the theatre in the New York debut of While Yet I Live, by Kinky Boots star Billy Porter. Merkerson was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2003 and is now working with Merck on America's Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals to provide resources that help people with type 2 diabetes talk to their doctors, develop an individualized treatment plan, and stick to that plan.

About America's Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals
America's Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals is an educational program from Merck urging people with type 2 diabetes to know their A1C and talk to their doctor about setting and attaining their own blood sugar goals. For more information on America's Diabetes Challenge: Get to Your Goals, and to pledge to work with your doctor to reach your blood sugar goals, visit

About Type 2 Diabetes
Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes – most have type 2 diabetes. When someone has type 2 diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin and/or the insulin that the body makes does not work properly. This causes blood sugar levels to become too high, and the body may also keep making sugar even though it does not need it. Once a person has type 2 diabetes, it does not go away, and high blood sugar levels over time can lead to serious health problems, such as heart disease and stroke.

People with type 2 diabetes can help reduce their risk of serious complications by setting individual goals to manage the ABCs of diabetes—A for A1C, also known as blood sugar, B for blood pressure and C for cholesterol.

It is recommended that many people with diabetes have an A1C of less than 7 percent to help reduce the risk of complications, and nearly half of people with diabetes are not at an A1C of less than 7 percent. A higher or lower A1C may be appropriate for some people, which is why it is important for people with diabetes to speak with their doctors about what goal is right for them.

About Merck
Today's Merck is a global healthcare leader working to help the world be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada. Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies, and consumer care and animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than 140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to healthcare through far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information, visit and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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. These statements are based upon the current beliefs and expectations of Merck's management and are subject to significant risks and uncertainties. If underlying assumptions prove inaccurate or risks or uncertainties materialize, actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

Risks and uncertainties include but are not limited to, general industry conditions and competition; general economic factors, including interest rate and currency exchange rate fluctuations; the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and health care legislation in the United States and internationally; global trends toward health care cost containment; technological advances, new products and patents attained by competitors; challenges inherent in new product development, including obtaining regulatory approval; Merck's ability to accurately predict future market conditions; manufacturing difficulties or delays; financial instability of international economies and sovereign risk; dependence on the effectiveness of Merck patents and other protections for innovative products; and the exposure to litigation, including patent 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 2013 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the company's other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SEC's Internet site (

Media Contact:  

Megan Wilkinson

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