Mectizan Donation Program | Local power. Global Change.
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Milestones

Established in 1987 by Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A.,* The Mectizan® Donation Program is the longest ongoing drug donation program of its kind.

1975

  • Dr. William Campbell of Merck Research Laboratories suggests the use of Mectizan® (ivermectin) against river blindness in humans and the drug is reformulated and tested in clinical trials.

1987

  • After testing proves safety and efficacy, Merck & Co., Inc. 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.

1991

  • 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.
  • The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) passes a resolution calling for the elimination of onchocerciasis as a public health problem in the Americas by the year 2007.

1992

  • 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.

1994

  • The World Health Assembly (WHA) passed the resolution WHA47.32 calling for the onchocerciasis control through ivermectin distribution.

1995

  • 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.

1997

  • MDP celebrates 10 years of Mectizan for river blindness control in Bamako, Mali.

1998

  • Merck & Co., Inc. 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 onchocerciasis is co-endemic. This begins a partnership between Merck & Co., Inc., GlaxoSmithKline, and MDP to coordinate the donations of Mectizan and albendazole.

2002

  • Merck and MDP celebrate the 250 millionth treatment of Mectizan in Bombani, Tanzania.

2007

  • Merck commits $25 million to support APOC in the control of river blindness in the African region.
  • Colombia stops treatment for river blindness and becomes the first country to begin the 3-year post-treatment surveillance phase.

2008

  • PAHO passes an updated resolution CD48.R12 calling for the interruption of transmission of river blindness in the Americas by 2012.
  • MDP holds a symposium in London to commemorate the 10 years of Mectizan and albendazole for LF elimination.
  • WHO confirms the potential for elimination of the transmission of river blindness with ivermectin in some parts of Africa.

2009

  • Togo conducts the last round of mass treatment for LF.

2010

  • Ecuador stops treatment with Mectizan for river blindness and begins the post-treatment surveillance phase.
  • The Abu Hamad focus in Sudan stops Mectizan treatment and begins the post-treatment surveillance phase.

2011

  • Colombia becomes the first country to submit a dossier to WHO for verification of elimination of onchocerciasis transmission.
  • More than 1 billion treatments have been approved cumulatively by MDP for the treatment of onchocerciasis.
  • Yemen conducts its final round of mass treatment for LF.
  • By the end of 2011, 140 million treatments annually are being approved for onchocerciasis and 130 million for LF.

2012 

  • 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).
  • 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.

2013

  • Colombia becomes the first country in the world to be verified by WHO for eliminating river blindness.

2014

  • Ecuador becomes the second country in the world to be verified by WHO for eliminating river blindness.
  • Malawi conducts its final round of mass treatment for LF.

2015

  • Mexico and Guatemala become the third and fourth countries in the world to be verified by WHO for eliminating river blindness.
  • Dr. 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.
  • APOC ends its 20-year run as WHO’s regional coordinating body for onchocerciasis control in Africa.

2016

  • 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 onchocerciasis, LF, and trachoma as well as the control of schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiasis in the African region.

2017

  • Togo becomes the first country in sub-Saharan Africa validated by WHO for eliminating LF as a public health problem.
  • The Nigerian Federal Ministry of Health declares that Plateau and Nasarawa States achieved LF elimination as a public health problem.
  • 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.
  • 6 districts in Ethiopia’s Metema focus stop Mectizan treatment for river blindness.
  • 2 additional foci (Kashoya-Kitomi and Wambabya-Rwamarongo) in Uganda stop Mectizan treatment after transmission of river blindness is interrupted.
  • Merck. & Co., Inc. expands the mandate of MDP to reach up to an additional 100 million people annually to accelerate LF elimination in countries eligible for “triple therapy” or “IDA” with ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine, and albendazole.

2018

  • 3 states in Nigeria stop treatment for river blindness – Kaduna, Nasarawa, and Plateau.
  • 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.
  • Mali conducts its final round of mass treatment for LF.

2019

  • Yemen is validated by WHO for eliminating LF as a public health problem.
  • 2 additional states stop treatment in Nigeria – Zamfara and Kebbi. This brings the global number of people no longer needing treatment for onchocerciasis to 13.8 million.
  • Cameroon and Uganda conduct the final round of mass treatment for LF.
  • Malawi has completed the required 5-year post-treatment surveillance period for LF and submitted the validation dossier to WHO.

 

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