Twenty-five years ago last month, something big started, a collaborative venture that changed the lives of hundreds of millions of people. In October 1987, Roy Vagelos, then the chief executive of Merck, launched the largest pharmaco-philanthropic venture ever. He approached me, as the head of the Task Force for Child Survival in Atlanta, and offered the drug — now copyrighted as Mectizan — for free if the task force could devise a distribution system.
The original target of treating 6 million people in six years was achieved in four years. Only 15 years after the program started, 250 million treatments had been given. Last year, the Mectizan Donation Program provided 140 million treatments for onchocerciasis in Africa, Latin America and Yemen. A ­quarter-century after the program began, 1 billion treatments have been provided free by ­Merck.

Wellcome Trust to fund three-year study in Texas to look for new biological markers measuring treatment efficacy for the leading parasitic killer of the Americas. Chagas disease infects approximately 8 million people worldwide and is the leading parasitic killer in the Americas, where it causes more deaths than malaria.

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) announce today the identification of three chemical series targeting the treatment of deadly neglected tropical diseases (NTDs), through DNDi's screening of MMV's open access Malaria Box. The resulting DNDi screening data are among the first data generated on the Malaria Box to be released into the public domain, exemplifying the potential of openly sharing drug development data for neglected patients.

Washington, D.C. (November 3, 2012) —The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and its members are pleased to celebrate one of the most significant global health achievements of the 21st century. For over the past three years, we have supported Rotary International’s PolioPlus program in India through grants and contributions, some of which have been matched by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

An independent study on biopharmaceutical innovation in middle-income countries was released today at the 26th IFPMA Assembly in Geneva. The report analyzed key national political and economic factors that foster biopharmaceutical innovation. The report highlighted the primary success factor as consistent long-term policy and legal frameworks. These should be coupled with effective coordination of national industrial and health policies, encouragement of collaborations between stakeholders, and adequate intellectual property protection. The report further suggests that some countries specialize in those stages of the innovation process in which they have a competitive advantage.

October 24, 2012 marks World Polio Day -- the first since India was removed from the list of countries with active transmission of wild poliovirus. 

In 1988, the forty-first World Health Assembly adopted a resolution for the worldwide eradication of polio. It marked the launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), spearheaded by national governments, WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and supported by key partners including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

Today, the World Health Organization released the 2012 Global Tuberculosis Report, which provides the latest information and analysis about the tuberculosis (TB) epidemic and progress in TB care and control at global, regional and country levels. It is based primarily on data reported by WHO’s Member States in annual rounds of global TB data collection.

Today on World Sight Day, 25 years after Merck started the MECTIZAN® Donation Program (MDP), the company celebrates with partners important progress in the elimination of river blindness, one of the leading causes of preventable blindness worldwide. In October 1987, Merck made the decision to donate the medication MECTIZAN for the treatment of river blindness (onchocerciasis) – as much as needed, for as long as needed – to eliminate the disease as a public health problem. MDP efforts are focused in Africa, Latin America and Yemen, where river blindness is endemic. In 1998, Merck expanded the MDP to include the elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF), in African countries and Yemen where it co-exists with river blindness. World leaders come together to discuss the role of MDP in establishing a platform for disease control in a landmark event titled: 'Disease Elimination in the 21st Century.'

Sanofi and the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) announced today a new research collaboration agreement to accelerate the discovery and development of novel compounds against tuberculosis (TB), a deadly infectious disease that resulted in almost 1.5 million deaths worldwide in 2010.

The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) published the 2012 update to its Developing World Health Partnerships Directory today. Now totaling 220 and reaching people in more than 160 countries, these health partnerships highlight the commitment of research-based pharmaceutical industry and its many partners including governments, intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, private sector companies and universities to improve health around the world.