Merck teamed up with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), and former Miss Universe Dayanara Torres, for an asthma education website targeting Spanish-speakers.

The unbranded site, built by PiranhaKid (division of Hill & Knowlton) and located at, provides visitors with information about household items that can trigger asthma outbreaks, an asthma information packet for printing, and links to the AAFA’s Twitter, Facebook and YouTube pages.  

On the website’s homepage, Torres tells visitors (in español) that 2.7 million Hispanic Americans suffer from asthma and that can help explain the possible causes and symptoms of disease.
Materials on the site also link back to Merck’s long-running, an educational site designed to “separate fact from fiction” about asthma. It is not true, for example, that “only emotional kids get asthma,” or that “moving to a dry climate will cure my asthma,” according to the website.   

Survey data conducted by Kelton Research in April 2010 and funded by Merck found that 86% of the 202 Hispanic American asthma patients surveyed “felt they have been unable to control their asthma,” and 79% said they “don’t know everything there is to know about their disease,” according to a release.

“Asthma is quite prevalent in the Hispanic American community. Yet, there are few resources in Spanish to help patients understand their disease,” said Jaime Alvarez, an allergist and immunologist, in the release.

In June, Merck received FDA approval for a new combination inhaler called Dulera, indicated for asthma patients 12 years and older. The company also picked up several asthma products along with its acquisition of Schering-Plough in 2009, including the Asmanex Twisthaler, the Foradil Aerolizer and Proventil HFA. Merck also markets Singulair, a blockbuster asthma and allergy drug, with 1Q 2010 global sales at $1.2 billion, according to a Merck quarterly report.

Merck is the latest drugmaker to launch an unbranded consumer campaign fronted by a celebrity and backed by a not-for-profit health organization. In June, Sanofi-Aventis organized a similar triumvirate with NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon and the March of Dimes, to educate consumers about pertussis.