Merck and the Mectizan Donation Program Donate $1 Million to the END Fund for Efforts to Help Eliminate River Blindness in Africa


March 4, 2016 10:00 am ET

Since 1987 Merck Has Donated More than Two Billion Treatments of Mectizan to Help Eliminate River Blindness and Lymphatic Filariasis

Merck (NYSE:MRK), known as MSD outside the United States and Canada,
announced today that the company, together with the Mectizan Donation
Program, is donating $1 million to the END Fund in support of efforts in
Africa to eliminate river blindness, which is also known as
onchocerciasis. Today’s donation will enable participating countries to
prepare for a period of post-treatment surveillance that is needed
before an application can be submitted to the World Health Organization
(WHO) for official elimination verification status. Efforts to eliminate
river blindness are aligned with WHO’s Roadmap on Neglected Tropical
Diseases (NTDs), which calls for elimination of river blindness in
selected countries in Africa by 2020. While three countries in Latin
America have already received WHO verification of elimination of river
blindness, no countries in Africa have yet achieved this goal.

“Merck has worked with our partners for nearly three decades to make
Mectizan (ivermectin) available, free of charge, to all those afflicted
by river blindness,” said Kenneth C. Frazier, chairman and chief
executive officer, Merck. “It is an honor to present this donation to
the END Fund today alongside Dr. William Campbell, the retired Merck
parasitologist who shared the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
for his discoveries that led to the development of Mectizan.”

“The END Fund is proud to partner with Merck on this critical next step
toward the end of river blindness,” said Ellen Agler, CEO of the END
Fund. “Merck’s long-standing commitment to elimination efforts is
further bolstered by their thoughtful investment. Through innovative
public-private partnerships coupled with country-led programs, millions
of the most vulnerable people will no longer have to worry about the
devastating effects of this disease. The END Fund is grateful for
Merck’s collaborative leadership and we look forward to others joining
us, with the hope for continued momentum building towards elimination.”

River blindness is a parasitic infection that can cause intense itching,
skin discoloration, rashes, and eye disease that often leads to
permanent blindness. Common in many parts of Africa, Latin America and
in Yemen, it is spread by the bites of infected black flies that breed
in rapidly flowing rivers in the affected countries. Through decades of
effort by a range of partners led by WHO’s African Program for
Onchocerciasis Control (APOC), the transmission of new cases of river
blindness in Africa has been greatly reduced. In many countries it is
suspected that transmission has been completely eliminated.

About the Mectizan Donation Program

The Mectizan Donation Program is the longest-running, disease-specific,
drug-donation program and public-private partnership of its kind. In
1998, Merck expanded the program to include the elimination of another
disease, lymphatic filariasis. The program reaches more than 250 million
people in the affected areas annually, with more than 2 billion
treatments donated since 1987.

About the END Fund

The END Fund is the world’s first private philanthropic initiative to
combat the five most common neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that,
together, cause up to 90% of the NTD burden in sub-Saharan Africa.
Supported by a group of global philanthropists, the END Fund provides
financing for nationwide disease control initiatives, creating new
programs, supplementing existing ones, and using leveraged funds to
extend and deepen the impact. The END Fund provides exceptional return
on investment by harnessing the highly scalable impact of low-cost mass
drug administrations.

About Merck

Today’s Merck is a global health care leader working to help the world
be well. Merck is known as MSD outside the United States and Canada.
Through our prescription medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and
animal health products, we work with customers and operate in more than
140 countries to deliver innovative health solutions. We also
demonstrate our commitment to increasing access to health care through
far-reaching policies, programs and partnerships. For more information,
and connect with us on Twitter,
and LinkedIn.

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