Chronic diseases and health promotion

Part Four - Taking action: essential steps for success

Chapter Two - The private sector, civil society and international organizations

Product donation. Spotlight: River blindness

Product donation/price reduction programmes

Affordable access to appropriate products is critical. The private sector can donate or offer them at affordable prices as part of a national plan, and help distribute products such as priority medications and medical devices. The success of the Mectizan® donation programme (see spotlight below) is one example of such a programme.

Spotlight: River blindness

Merck Pharmaceutical Company discovered a new application for the drug Mectizan® (ivermectin) to prevent onchocerciasis, or river blindness, in the early 1980s. In 1987, it decided to donate as much as is needed to everyone who needs it for as long as it takes to eliminate the disease worldwide. Some 18 million people are infected with the parasitic worm, and 250 000 people are already irreparably blind from this disease.

Mectizan® cannot restore lost sight but if it is taken early enough, it protects remaining vision. It kills the larvae responsible, and eliminates itching and damage to the eyes with just one dose per year, although infected people need to take Mectizan® for around 20 years. The Mectizan® donation programme has been a highly effective public health programme and serves as a possible model
for tackling some future problems in international health.