community distributor notes

Mectizan (ivermectin, MSD), discovered and developed by Merck*, is a very safe and highly effective drug approved for mass treatment of two of the world’s most disfiguring and disabling tropical diseases: onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis (LF). In 1987, Merck committed to donating the drug for as long as necessary for the control of onchocerciasis making the Mectizan Donation Program the longest ongoing drug donation program of its kind.

In 1998, the mandate of the Mectizan Donation Program was expanded to include LF elimination in Yemen and in African countries where LF and onchocerciasis co-exist. In these countries, Mectizan is co-administered with albendazole, donated by GlaxoSmithKline. The remarkable partnership between the two companies continues to scale up to meet the demand for the two drugs for LF elimination in Africa and Yemen.

The donation and distribution of Mectizan and albendazole involves a large, global public-private partnership of UN agencies, bilateral donors, multilateral development agencies, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, local communities, and the private sector.

Today, with more than 1 billion people treated since the program's inception and 80 million people treated annually in Africa, Latin America, and Yemen, blindness caused by onchocerciasis is increasingly rare and there are regions of Latin America and Africa that have elminated the disease altogether. Merck remains steadfast in its commitment to donate “as much Mectizan as necessary, for as long as necessary” to treat river blindness.

Both Merck and GSK are committed to the elimination of LF in Africa and Yemen. By the end of 2008, a cumulative total of more than 304 million treatments of Mectizan and albendazole had been approved for LF elimination through the Mectizan Donation Program. The annual number of people treated in 2008 was 80 million people. The remarkable partnership between the two companies encouraged other companies to donate drugs for "neglected tropical diseases" resulting in a wide network of partners working toward a common goal of enabling access to medicines and, ultimately, to reducing poverty in countries afflicted with these diseases.

*Merck operates as Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) in many countries outside the U.S.