Milestones

1975
Mectizan Identified as a Possible Treatment for River Blindess
Dr. William Campbell of Merck Research Laboratories suggests the use of Mectizan® (ivermectin) against river blindness (onchocerciasis) in humans, and the drug is reformulated and tested in clinical trials.

Meanwhile, In 1975, The World Health Organization's Onchocerciasis Control Program (OCP) launched in 11 countries in West Africa to control river blindness through larvaciding black fly breeding sites. Following *Merck & Co., Inc.'s donation of Mectizan, OCP implemented a joint strategy with vector control and preventive chemotherapy, which resulted in the successful control and elimination as a public health problem many countries in West Africa.
1975
1987
Testing Proves Mectizan Is a Safe & Effective Treatment
After testing proves safety and efficacy, Merck CEO Roy Vagelos announces the company’s commitment to donate Mectizan to treat river blindness for as long as needed. The Mectizan Donation Program (MDP) and the Mectizan Expert Committee are formed, and a secretariat is established at The Task Force for Global Health as an independent body to provide medical, technical, and administrative oversight of Mectizan donation.
1987
1991
Non-Governmental Development Organization Established
Merck, MDP, the World Health Organization (WHO), and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners established the Non-Governmental Development Organization (NGDO) Coordination Group for Onchocerciasis Control. NGDOs play a critical role in getting Mectizan distributed through their work with ministries of health, their expertise in grassroots programs management, and their fundraising for program implementation.
1991
1991
PAHO Calls for Elimination of River Blindness
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) passes a resolution calling for the elimination of river blindness as a public health problem in the Americas by the year 2007.
1991
1992
OEPA is Launched
The Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), formed by the River Blindness Foundation and sponsored by The Carter Center, is launched to coordinate elimination in the 6 endemic countries in the Americas: Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Venezuela.
1992
1994
WHA Passes Ivermectin Distribution Resolution
The World Health Assembly (WHA) passes the resolution WHA47.32 calling for river blindness control through ivermectin distribution.
1994
1995
APOC Is Created
WHO and the World Bank partner to create the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), providing financial support and coordination of disease control efforts in 20 African countries.
1995
1997
10 Years of Mectizan
MDP celebrates 10 years of Mectizan for river blindness control in Bamako, Mali.
1997
1998
Expansion of MDP to include elimination of LF
Merck expands the mandate of MDP to include Mectizan for the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) in African countries and Yemen where the disease is co-endemic with river blindness. GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) donates albendazole for co-distribution with Mectizan for LF elimination in Africa and Yemen where river blindness is co-endemic. This begins a partnership between Merck & Co., Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, and MDP to coordinate the donations of Mectizan and albendazole.
1998
2002
250 Million Treatments
Merck and MDP celebrate the 250 millionth treatment of Mectizan in Bombani, Tanzania.
2002
2007
$25 Million for APOC
Merck commits $25 million to support APOC for the control of river blindness in 20 countries in Africa.
2007
2007
Post-Treatment Phase Begins in Columbia
Colombia stops treatment for river blindness and becomes the first country to begin the 3-year post-treatment surveillance phase.
2007
2008
Resolution for Americas Transmission Interruption
PAHO passes an updated resolution CD48.R12 calling for the interruption of transmission of river blindness in the Americas by 2012.
2008
2008
Ten Years of Mectizan and Albendazole
MDP holds a symposium in London to commemorate the 10 years of Mectizan and albendazole donation for LF elimination.
2008
2008
Potential Elimination in Parts of Africa
WHO confirms the potential for elimination of the transmission of river blindness with ivermectin in some parts of Africa.
2008
2009
Last Round of Treatment for LF
Togo conducts its last round of mass treatment for LF.
2009
2010
Ecuador Begins Post-Treatment Phase
Ecuador stops treatment with Mectizan for river blindness and begins the post-treatment surveillance phase.
2010
2010
Sudan Begins Post-Treatment Phase
The Abu Hamad focus in Sudan stops Mectizan treatment and begins the post-treatment surveillance phase.
2010
2011
Colombia Submits Dossier
Colombia becomes the first country to submit a dossier to WHO for verification of elimination of river blindness transmission.
2011
2011
Over 1 Billion Treatments Approved
More than 1 billion treatments have been approved cumulatively by MDP for the treatment of river blindness.
2011
2011
Yemen Conducts Final Round
Yemen conducts its final round of mass treatment for LF.
2011
2011
140 Million Annual Treatments Approved
By the end of 2011, 140 million treatments annually are being approved for river blindness and 130 million for LF.
2011
2012
25 Years of Partnerships Celebrated
The Mectizan Donation Program celebrates 25 years of partnerships and progress toward the elimination of river blindness and LF with events held in the USA (Atlanta), the UK (London), and Switzerland (Geneva).
2012
2012
Suspected Transmission Interruption in Uganda
6 foci (Mt. Elgon, Itwara, Wadelai, Mpamba-Nkusi, Maracha-Terego, and Imaramagambo) in Uganda stop Mectizan treatment after transmission of river blindness is suspected to have been interrupted.
2012
2013
Colombia Eliminates River Blindness
Colombia becomes the first country in the world to be verified by WHO for eliminating river blindness.
2013
2014
Ecuador Eliminates River Blindness
Ecuador becomes the second country in the world to be verified by WHO for eliminating river blindness.
2014
2014
Final Round of Treatment in Malawi
Malawi conducts its final round of mass treatment for LF.
2014
2015
Mexico & Guatemala Eliminate River Blindness
Mexico and Guatemala become the third and fourth countries in the world to be verified by WHO for eliminating river blindness.
2015
2015
Dr. William C. Campbell awarded Nobel Prize
William C. Campbell, Ph.D., is jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of avermectin, which led to the development of Mectizan. Dr. Campbell performed his Nobel Prize-winning work at Merck Research Laboratories in Rahway, N.J., where he worked from 1957 until his retirement in 1990.
2015
2015
APOC Ends 20-Year Run
APOC ends its 20-year run as WHO's regional coordinating body for river blindness control in Africa.
2015
2016
ESPEN is Established
The Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN), is established within the WHO African Regional Office (AFRO) with an expanded mandate to coordinate the elimination of river blindness, LF, and trachoma as well as the control of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis in the African region.
2016
2017
Togo Eliminates LF
Togo becomes the first country in sub-Saharan Africa validated by WHO for eliminating LF as a public health problem.
2017
2017
Plateau & Nasarawa States Eliminate LF
The Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health declares that Plateau and Nasarawa States achieved LF elimination as a public health problem.
2017
2017
Merck & Co., Inc. Expands MDP Mandate
Merck expands the mandate of MDP to donate up to an additional 100 million treatments annually through 2025 to accelerate LF elimination in countries eligible for "triple therapy" with ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine, and albendazole (known as "IDA").
2017
2017
Ethiopia Districts Stop Mectizan Treatment
6 districts in Ethiopia’s Metema focus stop Mectizan treatment for river blindness.
2017
2017
Uganda Foci Interrupt River Blindness Transmission
2 additional foci (Kashoya-Kitomi and Wambabya-Rwamarongo) in Uganda stop Mectizan treatment after transmission of river blindness is interrupted.
2017
2017
Mectizan Donation Program Turns 30
MDP commemorates its 30th anniversary and recognizes Togo as the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate LF by hosting a side event during the 67th WHO AFRO Regional Committee meeting in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
2017
2018
Three States in Nigeria Stop River Blindness Treatment
3 states in Nigeria stop treatment for river blindness - Kaduna, Nasarawa, and Plateau.
2018
2018
Triple Therapy Strategy Rolled Out
The new strategy to eliminate LF using the IDA “triple therapy” strategy is rolled out in American Samoa, Egypt, Fiji, India, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, and Tuvalu.
2018
2018
Mali Conducts Final Mass LF Treatment
Mali conducts its final round of mass treatment for LF.
2018
2019
Yemen Eliminates LF
Yemen is validated by WHO for eliminating LF as a public health problem.
2019
2019
Two Additional Nigerian States Stop Treatment
2 additional states stop treatment in Nigeria—Zamfara and Kebbi. This brings the global number of people no longer needing treatment for river blindness to 13.8 million.
2019
2019
Cameroon & Uganda Conduct Final Round LF Treatment
Cameroon and Uganda conduct their final rounds of mass treatment for LF.
2019
2019
Malawi Completes Post-Treatment Surveillance for LF
Malawi has completed the required 5-year post-treatment surveillance period for LF and submitted the validation dossier to WHO.
2019
2020
Malawi Eliminates LF
Malawi is validated by WHO for eliminating LF as a public health problem.
2020
2021
Uganda eliminates river blindness in 2 more foci
The Wadelai and Nyamugasani foci meet WHO criteria for elimination, reducing the number of people who need treatment with Mectizan in Uganda by 38,450.
2021

 

*Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A., is known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada.