What we do

The mandate of the Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) is to provide Mectizan for the elimination of onchocerciasis where feasible by 2025 and lymphatic filariasis in countries co-endemic with onchocerciasis by 2020. MDP also works closely with partners to identify and overcome challenges to onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis elimination. 

MDP also serves as the secretariat for the Mectizan Expert Commitee, an independent body of nine internationally recognized experts in the fields of public health, tropical disease, and ophthalmology established by Merck to provide technical oversight of the Mectizan Donation Program.

Why Mectizan?

Mectizan is effective by reducing the microfilarial load in onchocerciasis and/or lymphatic filariasis infected persons when given in a single-dose regimen on an annual basis. The drug produces only mild, short-lived post-treatment effects (e.g. itching, swollen lymph nodes, fever, etc.) This unique profile makes Mectizan well suited for annual, large-scale, mass treatment programs in areas endemic for onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis to eliminate these diseases as public health problems. 

Before Mectizan, drugs to treat these diseases were limited to diethylcarbamazine (DEC) and suramin for onchocerciasis and DEC for lymphatic filariasis. The use of DEC and suramin for onchocerciasis is no longer recommended due to the potential for severe side effects. Mectizan has been shown to be very effective with an excellent safety profile for the treatment of onchocerciasis in doses of 0.15 mg/kg taken orally once every 12 months.

In Yemen and African countries where onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis co-exist, DEC is not considered a safe treatment due to its potential for severe side-effects, therefore Merck also donates Mectizan for lymphatic filariasis, in addition to onchocerciasis, in these areas. As part of the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis strategy, WHO also recommends the addition of albendazole (donated by GlaxoSmithKline) to Mectizan for lymphatic filariasis in co-endemic areas. This regimen was designed to interrupt disease transmission with the possibility of disease elimination. A single annual dose of Mectizan, combined with albendazole, has been found to effectively reduce the microfilaremia by 99% for one full year after treatment.