Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF)
The Global Alliance to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GAELF) was created to eliminate one of the world's leading causes of disability and disfigurement as a public health problem by the year 2020. An estimated 120 million people in at least 80 countries of the world suffer from the disease, and one billion (20% of the world's population) are at risk of infection. Initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and GlaxoSmithKline in 1998, the Global Alliance has evolved into a global partnership between international organizations in the public and private sectors, academia and non-governmental organizations working in partnership with ministries of health in tropical countries where lymphatic filariasis (LF) is endemic. Merck & Co., Inc. joined the elimination effort in 1998, when it widened the scope of its Mectizan Donation Program to include LF in African countries where river blindness and LF co-exist. The WHO recommends that lymphatic filariasis be prevented with a combination of albendazole (donated by GSK) with either DEC or Mectizan (donated by Merck). Drug administration for people living in endemic areas is recommended by WHO once a year for at least five years to break the cycle of transmission. In 2009, GSK donated 425 million treatments of albendazole to prevent transmission in 28 countries. To date, GSK has donated over 1.4 billion treatments to 50 countries. Over the 20 year life of the program, GSK expects to donate up to 6 billion preventative albendazole treatments across the LF endemic countries working to fight LF. Merck approved 110 million treatments of Mectizan to LF elimination programs in 19 African countries and Yemen in 2009, bringing the cumulative total to more than 414 million. Merck and GSK have also provided financial grants to support partners in research programs, coalition building, workshops and communications. In the ten years since its initiation, the GAELF has become the most rapidly scaled-up medicine administration program in public health history. The WHO reported that during 2008, over 496 million people were treated worldwide. In a study published in October 2008 in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, researchers found that the LF elimination effort has prevented 6.6 million children from acquiring the disease.