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On World Sight Day, Merck And Partners Mark 25 Years Of Successful Collaboration To Help Eliminate River Blindness

“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,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief executive officer of Merck. “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 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, “Twenty-five years after Merck’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.”

About The MECTIZAN Donation Program

In 1978 Merck scientist Dr. William Campbell suggested that the medicine MECTIZAN discovered within Merck’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.

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