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Press Release

MSD and partners mark 25 years of progress towards eliminating river blindness

Posted on: 11 Oct 12

Hoddesdon, 11 October 2012 — Today on World Sight Day, MSD and partners mark 25 years of working towards elimination of onchocerciasis (river blindness), a disabling, blinding parasitic infection which is the world's second leading infectious cause of blindness.

Worldwide, there are more than 120 million people at risk of contracting the disease , with some 37 million people infected.

In October 1987, MSD (known as Merck in the US and Canada) made the decision to donate Mectizan® (ivermectin) for the treatment of river blindness. The pledge was made to donate as much as possible, for as long as required until river blindness is eliminated as a public health problem .

The Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) was set up to facilitate the distribution of Mectizan and, in 1998, was expanded to include the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF – sometimes known as elephantiasis) in African countries where the disease co-exists with river blindness.

Over the past 25 years over one billion treatments have been donated to communities in Africa, Latin America and in Yemen and the MDP has become the longest-running disease-specific drug donation programme of its kind.

Kenneth C. Frazier, Chairman and CEO of MSD said, “It is wonderful to see the Mectizan Donation Program continuing strong after 25 years, making a difference in the world as it gets closer to achieving its long-held goal of eliminating river blindness.

"We 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 world’s most pressing health problems – even for regions and diseases that are too often neglected."

The success of the programme has only been possible with the help of many partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank, the Task Force for Global Health, the African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), the Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), as well as ministries of health, non-governmental development organizations such as Sightsavers and local communities in endemic countries.

Editor's Details

Polly Young
0207 861 2815

Last updated on: 11/10/2012

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