In what is described as the single largest donation to any country, Swiss science and technology giants, Merck, Tuesday, donated 34 million tablets of praziquantel, a drug used in combating schistosomiasis, to Nigeria.
This, The UNION learnt, is higher than the 27 million Merck donated to the African continent in 2012.
Already, the drugs have been delivered to the federal government through the Federal Ministry of Health.
A statement made available to The UNION from Geneva, Switzerland, said the drugs are for distribution to school children.
Merck is supporting educational and awareness programs, researching schistosomiasis therapies for very young children and cooperating with partners in the Global Schistosomiasis Alliance, among other things.
The statements reads: “Merck, a leading science and technology company, announced today that the largest single delivery of praziquantel tablets in the history of the Merck Praziquantel Donation Program recently arrived in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
“The west African country has received around 34 million tablets for mass distribution to school children.
“With this, Merck has donated more tablets to a single country than it did to the entire continent in 2012 (27 million).
“Today in Geneva, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Folorunso Adewole, expressed his country’s thanks to Merck and the World Health Organization (WHO) for their joint efforts in the fight against the neglected tropical disease schistosomiasis”.
The statement also quoted Stefan Oschmann, Chairman of the Executive Board and CEO of Merck, as having met with Prof. Adewole on the occasion of the 69th World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of WHO, in Geneva.
“We want to eliminate the insidious worm disease and give children the opportunity to participate in the economic development of their home countries. Our donation of 34 million tablets to WHO for Nigeria – enough to treat 13.6 million school children – shows that we are on the right track. However, millions of children still suffer from schistosomiasis. And we know that we alone cannot solve the problem with our tablets,” said Oschmann.
“Furthermore, in the future we will collaborate even more closely with our partners to finally eliminate schistosomiasis,” Oschmann continued.
It also quoted the Health Minister as saying: “With more than 235 million people requiring treatment, schistosomiasis is one of the most prevalent tropical diseases in Africa. The worm disease is widespread in all regions of Nigeria, above all among children. We are therefore grateful for every sustained initiative that supports us in fighting schistosomiasis”.
As part of its responsibility for society and within Health, one of its corporate responsibility strategic spheres of activity, Merck is supporting WHO in the fight against the worm disease schistosomiasis in Africa.
Praziquantel is well tolerated and the most effective treatment to date for schistosomiasis. Since 2007, more than 74 million patients, primarily school children, have been treated. To this end, Merck has donated over 340 million tablets to WHO.
According to WHO, Nigeria is the world’s most endemic country for schistosomiasis. It is estimated that around 37 percent of the overall population requires treatment.
Nigeria has been participating in the Merck Praziquantel Donation Program since 2008. To date, through WHO Merck has donated nearly 105 million tablets to Nigeria, making it the main beneficiary country of the donation program. In total, nearly 20 million Nigerian patients have been treated to date, primarily school children.