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Friday, December 12, 2014

Merck supports WHO to fight parasitic worm disease schistosomiasis in Africa



 … Ethiopia to receive 13m Praziqantel tables in 2015

 
Arising from the first meeting of the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance which took place at the United Nations (UN) Conference Centre in Addis Ababa, the Merck Group endorsing the World Health Organization (WHO) fight against the parasitic worm disease schistosomiasis on the continent of Africa, reports NaijaAgroNet.

This is coming as NaijaAgroNet reports that Ethiopia is expected to receive 13 Million Praziquantel Tablets in 2015 to cater for patients suffering from schistosomiasis as Praziquantel has proved to be the most effective treatment for schistosomiasis.

WHO revealed to NaijaAgroNet that Ethiopia is one of the most endemic countries for schistosomiasis in the world, with an estimated 22 million people, which is over 20 per cent of the global population in need of treatment.

NaijaAgroNet also reports that since the start of the programme about 1.4 million patients, primarily children, have been treated.

Head, Public Affairs at Merck and responsible for the Merck Praziquantel Donation Programme, Frank Gotthardt, reiterated to NaijaAgroNet that they are committed to continuing the efforts in Africa, in cooperation with WHO, until schistosomiasis is eliminated.

“In order to fulfill this commitment, we will donate 100 million praziquantel tablets to African countries in 2015. Ethiopia will be one of the main beneficiaries of this donation," Gotthardt said in a press statement endorsed by the African Press Organization (APO).

This alliance, he said, will allow the different constituencies to engage in a coordinated approach to better address the challenges of meeting the elimination target. Just as the round table discussions and first global schistosomiasis meeting took place during the neglected tropical diseases week being hosted by the Ethiopian government from December 8 to 12.

NaijaAgroNet  recalls that the Merck Praziquantel Donation Programme was launched in 2007 with over 200 million tablets supplied since then and over 54 million children benefiting from the treated. Between 2011 and 2014, Merck’s annual donation, NaijaAgroNet  gathered, has grown from 25 to about 75 million tablets.

At the beginning of 2012, Merck announced that it will fight schistosomiasis until the disease has been eliminated in Africa. To reach this goal, the company will increase the annual donation of tablets up to 250 million in the medium term.

The further scale-up of the programme saw the offer allowing the treatment of about 100 million children a year. The expanded Merck Praziquantel Donation Programme will result in a financial commitment totaling around USD 23 million a year.

In addition, Merck is also supporting awareness initiatives at African schools to explain the causes of schistosomiasis to children and teach them how to prevent the disease.
 
Further, NaijaAgroNet reports that Merck is conducting research on a pediatric formulation of praziquantel for preschool children within the scope of a public-private partnership. So far, praziquantel tablets can only be administered to children over the age of six.   

By Isaac Oyimah/GEE
 +Remmy Nweke @Merck +World Health Organization

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