Merck Praziquantel Donation Program
According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 300 million people suffer from schistosomiasis, a worm disease caused by schistosomes, parasitic worms that multiply as swimming eggs in certain water snails. Infection occurs when human skin comes into contact with freshwater contaminated by snails carrying the schistosome parasites, which migrate through the body and spread the infectious disease. Schistosomiasis causes anemia, stunted growth and learning disabilities. It is the second-most common tropical disease in Africa after malaria and is also prevalent in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East and South America. Some 600 million people at risk and around 200,000 people die of this disease every year.
In April 2007, Merck KGaA* signed a partnership agreement with the World Health Organization to supply 200 million tablets of Cesol® 600 (praziquantel) for the treatment and prevention of schistosomiasis over a 10 year period. Some 27 million African school children will benefit from the Merck KGaA* donation, with an estimated value of approximately USD 80 million, which is focused on 33 African countries. Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Madagascar and Senegal have been designated by WHO/AFRO for priority control of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs).
Praziquantel is the most effective therapy to date for schistosomiasis infections – often even after just one dose – and it is well tolerated. It is therefore on the WHO list of essential drugs.The donation will address the issue of the affordability of praziquantel, which has been a barrier to access in poor communities and the main obstacle to implementing preventive anthelminthic chemotherapy in many African countries. Anthelminthic chemotherapy refers to drug treatment for worm infections, such as schistosomiasis, that disrupt the metabolism of the worms responsible, also known as helminths.
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