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Studies show success of Mectizan partnerships

The development of the drug Mectizan (ivermectin) and its distribution worldwide have radically altered the consequences of onchocerciasis, or river blindness, which once blinded millions in Africa, and Latin America. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted four new studies evaluating the Mectizan Donation Program, which was established by Merck and Co. Inc., the makers of Mectizan. They concluded that the now 17-year old Mectizan Donation Program is a successful and cost effective program for preventing the debilitating effects of river blindness. The researchers also believe that the public-private partnership forged by Merck through the Mectizan Donation Program should serve as a model for other companies and aid organizations seeking to prevent and treat other illnesses worldwide, such as AIDS and malaria. The studies are published in the current issue the journal Tropical Medicine and International Health.

On May 14, 2004, the School of Public Health and Merck and Co. Inc., will mark the successful work of the Mectizan Distribution Program with a symposium, "Controlling River Blindness: Achievements of a Public-Private Partnership." The event will be held from 12:15-1:30 p.m. at the School of Public Health in Baltimore, Md. and will feature discussions of the latest study findings from researchers from the School of Public Health and representatives from Merck and the Mectizan Donation Program.

"The Mectizan Donation Program is really one of the great public health success stories. It is the benchmark for all other disease prevention efforts in the developing world," said Gilbert Burnham, MD, one of the study authors and an associate professor in the School's Department of International Health.

Ivermectin, the compound from which Mectizan is derived, was originally found to be effective against parasites in farm animals. Realizing its potential as a human medicine, Merck and WHO conducted seven years of
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Contact: Tim Parsons
paffairs@jhsph.edu
410-955-6878
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
10-May-2004


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