Largest Drug Donation Program Celebrates 35 Years of Saving Sight and Improving Lives

It’s a staggering number: 11 billion life-changing tablets distributed for free over 35 years.

This year The Task Force’s first program and the first-ever drug donation program the Mectizan® Donation Program (MDP) celebrates its 35th anniversary of working to eliminate two neglected tropical diseases (NTDs): lymphatic filariasis and onchocerciasis, commonly known as river blindness.

MDP started in 1987 when Merck CEO Roy Vagelos asked Task Force CEO Dr. Bill Foege to manage Merck’s donation of Mectizan (ivermectin), a treatment found to control and treat onchocerciasis – an infection that is transmitted through the bites of infected black flies, causing intense itching, disfiguring skin irritation, and eye lesions that can lead to blindness. In 1998, Mectizan was added to GSK’s donation of the medicine albendazole. Used in combination, the two medicines work to eliminate lymphatic filariasis – a disease caused by microscopic, threadlike worms that are spread by mosquito bites and lead to swelling of the lymphatic system, legs, and genitals.

In the 35 years since, millions of people in 51 countries have been treated, changing countless lives for the better. Watch to see the development of Mectizan and how it became one of the largest and longest running drug donation efforts in the world.

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