Yesterday, November 29, 2012, Merck Serono donated its 100 millionth tablet to the World Health Organization (WHO) to treat schistosomiasis. Merck has Serono has been donating praziquantel to the WHO over the past five years, averaging 25 million tablets annually.
Next year, Merk Serono intends to increase their donations ten-folds, to 250 million a year.
Yesterday also marked the beginning of the praziquantel donation in Kenya, which currently reports the fifth highest prevalence of schistosomiasis in the world. Today, more than 11 million Kenyans are in need of treatment.
Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia or “snail fever,” is a parasitic disease carried by fresh water snails infected with one of the five varieties of the parasite Schistosoma. Found predominantly in tropical and sub-tropical climates, schistosomiasis infects 207 million people in 74 countries worldwide, with a vast majority of the burden occurring in Africa. Schistosomiasis ranks second only to malaria as the most common parasitic disease.
According to the press release issued by Merck Serono, the Permanent Secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation said about the program “Merck Serono’s commitment not only helps infected children, but also strengthens our public health care system. That is because untreated patients often suffer from serious health consequences, which causes great deal of unnecessary suffering and lead to high costs.”
The Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases applauds Merck Serono for their contribution in the fight to eliminated NTDs.
Read the full press release here.