Today on World Sight Day, 25 years after Merck (known as MSD outside the United States and Canada) started the MECTIZANÂ® Donation Program (MDP), the company celebrates with partners important progress in the elimination of river blindness, one of the leading causes of preventable blindness worldwide. In October 1987, Merck made the decision to donate the medication MECTIZAN (ivermectin) for the treatment of river blindness (onchocerciasis) â€“ as much as needed, for as long as needed â€“ to eliminate the disease as a public health problem. MDP efforts are focused in Africa, Latin America and Yemen, where river blindness is endemic. In 1998, Merck expanded the MDP to include the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF), in African countries and Yemen where it co-exists with river blindness. World leaders come together to discuss the role of MDP in establishing a platform for disease control in a landmark event titled: 'Disease Elimination in the 21st Century.'
World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr. Margaret Chan said, â€śTwenty-five years after the donation of MECTIZAN through the MECTIZAN Donation Program, we are now close to eliminating river blindness from the Western Hemisphere. This remarkable achievement is also considered feasible in parts of Africa where we once hoped only to control the disease. Thanks to this donation and to the commitment of endemic countries, NGOs, UN agencies, and the donor community, we can now envision a world free of this blinding and disfiguring skin disease.â€ť
The MDP is the longest-running disease-specific drug donation program of its kind. For 25 years, the MDP has donated MECTIZAN for the treatment of river blindness. The disease is transmitted through the bite of a black fly and can cause intense itching, permanent skin and eye lesions and, over time, blindness. Over one billion treatments have been donated to more than 117,000 communities in 28 countries in Africa, six countries in Latin America and in Yemen. To date, disease transmission has been interrupted â€“ meaning no new cases have been identified â€“ in four of the six affected countries in Latin America and nine regions in five African countries.
â€śIt is wonderfulÂ to see the MECTIZAN Donation Program continuing strong after 25 years, making a difference in the world as it gets closer to achievingÂ its long-held goal of eliminating river blindness,â€ť said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer of Merck. â€śWe are humbled by the great work of the alliance of partners to protect future generations from a disease that carries devastating implications for people, families, healthcare systems and local economies. The success of this program is proof that by working together we can successfully tackle the worldâ€™s most pressing health problems â€“ even for regions and diseases that are too often neglected.â€ť
The MDP has been made possible through a unique private-public partnership which includes WHO, the World Bank, the Task Force for Global Health, the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), and the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), as well as ministries of health, non-governmental development organizations and local communities in endemic countries.
To date, Merck has donated $5.1 billion worth of MECTIZAN tablets and invested approximately $45 million in direct financial support for the MDP.
According to U.S. President Jimmy Carter, â€śTwenty-five years after Merckâ€™s unprecedented donation of MECTIZAN, significant progress has been made to reduce the suffering caused by river blindness. In Africa, where it was once thought the disease could only be controlled, strides are being made to completely eliminate the disease from a number of countries. And in the Western Hemisphere, The Carter Center and its partners are close to eliminating river blindness. Thanks to Merck, the commitment of endemic communities, and strong partnerships, we can now envision a world someday free of river blindness.â€ť
About The MECTIZAN Donation Program
In 1978 Merck scientist Dr. William Campbell suggested that the medicine MECTIZAN discovered within Merckâ€™s laboratories could be useful against river blindness in humans. Clinical trials were conducted and in October 1987, Merck announced it would donate MECTIZAN for the treatment of river blindness to all who need it for as long as it takes to eliminate the disease as a public health problem. In 1998, Merck expanded its commitment to include donation for the treatment of lymphatic filariasis (LF) in African countries and Yemen where LF co-exists with river blindness.
Since 1998, more than 665 million treatments for LF have been approved. The program has developed a unique partnership model that has forged standards of cooperation between the private sector and public organizations and was influential in the development of a number of other public-private drug-donation initiatives.
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 www.merck.com and connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
This news release includes â€śforward-looking statementsâ€ť 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 merger between Merck and Schering-Plough, including future financial and operating results, the combined companyâ€™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 Merckâ€™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 all of 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; the impact of pharmaceutical industry regulation and health care legislation in the United States and internationally; Merckâ€™s ability to accurately predict future market conditions; dependence on the effectiveness of Merckâ€™s patents and other protections for innovative products; 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 Merckâ€™s 2011 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the companyâ€™s other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) available at the SECâ€™s Internet site (www.sec.gov).Business Wire
Last updated on: 11/10/2012