ICTC congratulates colleagues William C. Campbell and Satoshi Omura who were named winners of the the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine2015 prize along with Tu Youyou for their work developing drugs to treat parasitic tropical diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people every year.
Campbell and Omura were awarded the prize for their discovery of avermectin, which led to Merck’s development of Mectizan (ivermectin), a treatment for the neglected tropical disease river blindness (also known as onchocerciasis) in Africa, Latin America and Yemen. Tu Youyou, was awarded for her work developing a therapy to combat malaria.
River blindness is one of 17 neglected tropical diseases and a parasitic infection that causes skin and eye disease that untreated often leads to permanent blindness. Through the Mectizan Donation Program (MDP), working with partners for nearly three decades, Merck (known as MSD outside the United States and Canada) has made this medicine available, free of charge, to all affected.
Established more than 25 years ago, the Mectizan Donation Program is the longest-running disease-specific drug donation program and public-private partnership of its kind and has paved the way for other drug donation programs such as the Pfizer-supported distribution of free Azythromycin for the treatment of active trachoma through the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI).
These donation programs are playing a critical role in the fight to bring an end to the burden of neglected tropical diseases that affect over 1 billion of the world’s poorest people by 2020. In 2012, as part of the London Declaration, industry partners committed to scale up drug supply to address unmet needs in endemic countries. As a part of this agreement, all 10 pharmaceutical companies involved have met or surpassed their annual commitments to match the global requirement to treat and prevent NTDs. Nearly 1.35 billion treatments were donated in 2013, an increase of more than 35 percent since 2011 that reflects rising country demand.
By raising awareness of achievements relating to a neglected tropical disease, the focus of this year's Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine adds to the momentum currently building around efforts to overcome the global impact of neglected tropical diseases inspired by the World Health Organization's 2020 roadmap. ICTC welcomes this focus as a fantastic awareness raising platform and hope it will encourage more partners to support these efforts that still require significant scale up to meet our 2020 deadline.