Merck KGaA announces donation of 1.5 billionth tablet of praziquantel in partnership with the WHO; medicine is a treatment for schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease most common in tropical regions

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DARMSTADT, Germany , January 24, 2022 (press release) –

  • Joint commitment with World Health Organization to eliminate the neglected tropical disease (NTD) schistosomiasis
  • Tablet donations provided for the treatment of more than 600 million schoolchildren in affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa since 2007
  • Expanded commitment to Rwanda enables treatment of adults, supporting the country’s national NTD strategic plan

Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, a leading science and technology company, has donated the 1.5 billionth tablet of praziquantel in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO). This medication is the standard of care for the treatment of schistosomiasis – one of the most common and devastating parasitic diseases in tropical countries. Children in poor and rural communities are most severely affected. Since 2007, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, has enabled more than 600 million schoolchildren to be treated in 47 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere.

“The donation of the 1.5 billionth praziquantel tablet marks an important milestone in our joint effort to eliminate schistosomiasis. To date, hundreds of millions of children, who otherwise would have been left untreated, have been able to receive treatment for this devastating disease,” said Peter Guenter, Member of the Executive Board of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and CEO Healthcare. “As clear proof of the significant impact of our donation program, a study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal shows that the prevalence of schistosomiasis among school-aged children in sub-Saharan Africa has been reduced by almost 60% over the past 20 years.1 I am very proud of our company’s contribution to the fight against schistosomiasis and we will remain fully committed to continue our efforts until the disease is eliminated once and for all.”

The Schistosomiasis Elimination Program of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is an important part of the company’s goal to improve quality of life, healthy living and well-being for an increasing number of people in the world. The 1.5 billionth tablet was part of a delivery of almost 24 million tablets to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since 2013, the central African country has received more than 138 million tablets.

Simultaneously with the delivery of praziquantel to the DRC, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is also expanding its commitment to Rwanda. In January 2021, the company had announced that it would provide an additional 8 million tablets annually to the country. The tablets are needed to treat adults affected by schistosomiasis and will complement the annual donation of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, for the treatment of school-aged children. The first delivery arrived in the country at the end of 2021. First rounds of drug administration for adults have taken place in the meantime, marking the official kick-off of the partnership. The treatment is a key part of Rwanda's strategic plan in the fight against neglected tropical diseases. It aims to eliminate schistosomiasis and other NTDs as a public health problem by 2024.

Through its Schistosomiasis Elimination Program, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, is addressing the key requirement of treatment with praziquantel as an integral part of the WHO’s 2021-2030 Roadmap for NTDs. Moreover, the company is contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, especially Good Health and Well-Being (Goal 3) and Partnerships (Goal 17), in line with its sustainability strategy.

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References

1.    Kokaliaris C, et al. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 2022:22(1)-136:149

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