Since 2007, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has been supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against the worm disease schistosomiasis in Africa. This ailment is highly prevalent in Africa, Asia and Latin America and is the most commonly occurring tropical disease in Africa. Although the Praziquantel Donation Program was originally intended to run for a limited duration, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is continuing the fight until the parasitic disease schistosomiasis has been eliminated in Africa.
In order to reach this goal, in 2012 Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, pledged to significantly expand its donation, a tenfold increase of up to 250 million praziquantel tablets per year in the medium term. Our efforts to fight schistosomiasis reflect the United Nations Millennium Development Goals and also constitute part of the London Declaration initiative to fight neglected tropical diseases, which was launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2012.
Since the start of the Praziquantel Donation Program, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has donated over 160 million tablets. To date, more than 38 million patients in total have thus been treated, consisting primarily of school children. In 2013, around 50 million tablets were provided to the African countries of Angola, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Tanzania.
In addition to the tablet donations, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is also supporting an awareness program at schools in Africa to educate people on the causes of schistosomiasis, as well as ways to prevent the disease. Following the success of the pilot projects, the program is now being rolled out in Senegal with 750,000 brochures and in Malawi with 250,000, in addition to the 75,000 informational posters that are being printed. In order to reach more children, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is paying for the brochures to be translated into Swahili, Arabic and Portuguese.
Besides its donation and awareness programs, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has joined a public-private partnership to research a praziquantel formulation for young children since the current tablets are only approved for adults and children over six. As part of its initiative to fight neglected tropical diseases, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has provided US$ 1.15 million to Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and its project partners Astellas Pharma Inc., the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, and TI Pharma to conduct preclinical research.