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.
1987 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.
- 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.
1993 The Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas (OEPA), formed by the River Blindness Foundation and currently sponsored by The Carter Center, brings together the ministries of health of six countries in the Americas affected by onchocerciasis.
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 19 African countries.
1998 Merck expands 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. This begins a partnership between Merck and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) through GSK’s donation of albendazole for LF elimination, which would be distributed with Mectizan.
2002 Merck and MDP celebrate the 250 millionth treatment of Mectizan in Bombani, Tanzania.
2007 Colombia stops treatment with Mectizan for river blindness and becomes the first country to begin the three-year post-treatment surveillance phase.
- PAHO passes a resolution calling for the interruption of transmission of river blindness in the Americas by the year 2012.
- 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.
- Ecuador is the second country to stop treatment with Mectizan for river blindness and begin the post-treatment surveillance phase.
- The Abu Hamad focus in Sudan stops Mectizan treatment after transmission of river blindness is eliminated.
- Colombia becomes the first country to apply for WHO certification for the elimination of onchocerciasis transmission, after suspending treatment with Mectizan in 2007.
- More than 1 billion treatments have been approved cumulatively by MDP for the treatment of onchocerciasis.
- As of the end of 2011, 140 million treatments annually are being approved for onchocerciasis and 130 million for LF.
- Yemen conducts the last round of mass treatment 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).
2013 WHO verifies that Colombia has eliminated river blindness, thus becoming the first country in the world to achieve this goal.
2014 WHO verifies the elimination of onchocerciasis in Ecuador. Ecuador has worked in partnership with MDP and a number of other organizations and now becomes the second country in the world to be free of this disease.
- WHO verifies the elimination of onchocerciasis in Mexico, the third country in the world to be free of 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 a treatment for river blindness. 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.
2016 WHO verifies the elimination of onchocerciasis in Guatemala thanks to a partnership with MDP and a number of other organizations. With this milestone, four of the six countries in the Americas historically at risk for river blindness have now verified elimination of the disease.
- Togo becomes the first country in Africa recognized by WHO to have eliminated LF as a public health problem.
- Plateau and Nasarwa States in Nigeria are declared to have achieved the elimination of LF.
- MDP organizes a side event at the 67th session of the WHO Regional Committee for Africa to commemorate its 30th anniversary.
- Six districts in Ethiopia’s Metema focus are the first of 197 river blindness endemic districts in Ethiopia to stop Mectizan treatment for river blindness. This is one of the largest river blindness successes ever announced in Africa.
- The Mectizan Donation Program mandate is expanded to reach an additional 100 million people annually to accelerate LF elimination in countries eligible for “triple therapy” with ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine, and albendazole (IDA).
- Plateau and Nasarawa States in Nigeria stop treatment for onchocerciasis and enter the post-treatment surveillance phase. This is one of the largest river blindness program scale-downs ever announced.
- India commits to accelerating LF elimination using the IDA “triple therapy” strategy.
*Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A., is known as MSD outside of the United States and Canada.