MDP Program Notes – Summer 2021

We are now past the halfway point of 2021, another year marked by challenges introduced by the ongoing pandemic. Despite these challenges, our country and NGO partners continue to persevere, which demonstrates the extraordinary commitment to river blindness and lymphatic filariasis (LF) elimination.

It’s been a pleasure to observe the launch of MDA campaigns around the world with COVID-19 safety measures in place, as reported from Telangana, India. Health official Dr. Archana Patil explains: “COVID-19 has taught us that…it is crucial we integrate public health programs at the systemic and ground level.”

Below you will find news of progress made this year thanks to the determination of all partners to stay the course to #eliminateLF and #StampOutOncho.

Report from the 65th Mectizan® Expert Committee/Albendazole Coordination meeting

The 65th Mectizan Expert Committee/Albendazole Coordination (MEC) meeting was held online on April 6 & 7, 2021, led by MEC chair Pr. Gilbert Burnham. A broad range of stakeholders participated, including committee members; MEC liaisons from WHO headquarters, WHO regional offices, Merck & Co., Inc.*, and GlaxoSmithKline; and representatives from Eisai and the ministry of health in Nigeria.

During MEC 65, participants discussed:

  • MDP operations since the last meeting
  • Pharmacovigilance
  • The impact of COVID-19 on the Mectizan Donation Program and country partners
  • Plans for a revision of the Mectizan donation agreement with countries
  • Updates from partners on initiatives to support the goals of the WHO 2021-2030 NTD road map targets for the global elimination of LF and onchocerciasis

The next MEC meeting will be held in October 2021.

Thank you and farewell to retiring Merck & Co., Inc.* CEO Kenneth C. Frazier

Screen shot of video with Ken Frazier
Click to watch video

Kenneth C. Frazier retired as CEO of Merck & Co., Inc.,* effective June 30, 2021. During his decade-long tenure as CEO and chair of the board, Mr. Frazier was a steadfast supporter of the Mectizan Donation Program established by the company’s former CEO, Dr. Roy Vagelos. Earlier this year Frazier re-emphasized Merck’s commitment to the Mectizan donation and issued a call to all stakeholders to continue the work towards elimination of onchocerciasis and LF.

We thank Mr. Frazier for his leadership and wish him well in his next chapter.

MDP extends a warm welcome to the company’s new CEO, Robert M. Davis, most recently serving as Merck’s executive vice president, global services and chief financial officer.

Photo of Yao Sodahlon
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Lymphatic filariasis: ending a debilitating scourge

MDP director Dr. Yao Sodahlon recently provided a brief history of the campaign against LF since its inception in 1997, when the World Health Assembly called for the elimination of LF as a public health problem. His remarks were published in the first blog series from the Global Institute for Disease Elimination (GLIDE), called Voices from Africa.


Photos of safe M.D.A. in Nigeria provided by MITOSATH

Funds are still available for materials needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during Mass Drug Administration with Mectizan

In October 2020, the Mectizan Donation Program and Merck & Co., Inc.* announced that $500,000 would be made available to support the implementation of precautionary measures to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2 during mass drug administration (MDA) programs that include the distribution of Mectizan. The funding will be provided as grants to non-governmental organization (NGO) partners working to eliminate onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis.

For the remaining available funds, priority will be given to NGOs working in countries that have not yet received support from this COVID-19 mitigation grant. Visit the Policies & Forms section of the Mectizan Donation Program website to access the grant application and guidelines, or send an email to Senior Associate Director Joni Lawrence ( if you have any questions.

Documentary explores the key to elimination of river blindness

Take a break from your busy day! Make a fresh cup of tea and enjoy this award-winning short film about the partnership responsible for ending onchocerciasis in the Nigerian state of Nasarawa.

Filmed just before the COVID-19 pandemic, this 7-minute documentary explores how the dedication of Nasarawa State health workers, support of NGO partner The Carter Center, and donation of Mectizan by Merck & Co., Inc.* has enabled local communities to break the transmission of river blindness. Click to view the video.

Screen shot of Nigeria video
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MDP 2020 Annual Highlights report shows progress despite obstacles

Don’t miss the 2020 Annual Highlights report, available in English and French. Click here to view the reports.

Cover of the 2021 Annual Highlights document
Click to read the Annual Highlights

Upcoming Meetings

  • October 11-13, 2021: 66th Mectizan Expert Committee Meeting (virtual)
  • October 14, 2021: Onchocerciasis Elimination Partners Meeting (virtual)
  • October 15, 2021: Mectizan Donees Meeting (virtual)

A Mectizan Expert Committee (MEC) statement on the use of Mectizan during the COVID-19 pandemic

The MEC reminds country partners that Mectizan is donated only for the elimination of onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis).

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought interest from the media and an increase in publications on the action of ivermectin on SARS-Cov-2 viral replication. While we recognize the importance of COVID-19 interventions, Mectizan is donated strictly and solely for onchocerciasis and lymphatic filariasis elimination in the 50 endemic partner countries that have applied and been approved for Mectizan by the MEC. Merck & Co., Inc.* manufactures Mectizan, and Mectizan is approved for use, in the appropriate dose, specifically for the treatment of onchocerciasis (river blindness) and lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis).

The Mectizan Donation Program provides treatments with the clear understanding that donated Mectizan will only be used for these two diseases through mass drug distribution programs. Use of donated Mectizan for any other indication and at unauthorized doses is strictly prohibited and can be dangerous.

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