WHO to receive more than 2 billion tablets as contribution to help eliminate lymphatic filariasis
The World Health Organization (WHO) today signed a statement of intent with the pharmaceutical company Eisai Co., Ltd. for the supply of up to 2.2 billion tablets of an anti-filarial medicine, diethylcarbamazine (DEC). This medicine will be distributed free of charge with albendazole to help interrupt transmission of lymphatic filariasis, also known as elephantiasis. Lymphatic filariasis puts more than one billion people in poor countries at risk of infection.
In the statement of intent, Eisai agreed to produce and supply to the WHO free of charge up to 2.2 billion 100 mg tablets of diethylcarbamazine (generic name, “DEC”), a medicine used to treat lymphatic filariasis, in accordance with the high quality standards of WHO, over a six year period between 2012 and 2017. The production of the medicine is planned at Eisai’s Vizag Plant in India. Eisai is working with WHO to finalize details of this program with the aim to execute an official contract with WHO in the near future.
"… Eisai's commitment to provide DEC greatly improves prospects for interrupting the transmission of lymphatic filariasis … "
" … This contribution will eventually close the gap in drug availability, particularly for poor countries where most cases of this disease occur and the burden on health and society is greatest."
Lymphatic filariasis is acquired mostly in childhood, but remains silent for a long time after infection. More than one billion people, most of whom are the world’s poorest, are at risk of infection. It causes more than 120 million infections globally, with over 40 million people affected with clinical disease.
The impact of the disease is devastating and can cause significant pain, lost productivity and discrimination. WHO's Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF) launch in 2000 targets the elimination of the disease as a public health problem by 2020.
Annual mass chemotherapy with a combination of albendazole and DEC (in areas without onchocerciasis) or that of albendazole and ivermectin (in areas with onchocerciasis) for five to six years in endemic areas is expected to interrupt transmission. Since 2000, the GPELF has delivered 2.45 billion treatments to people in filariasis-endemic areas. A critical operational priority for the GPELF is to ensure the availability of quality-assured DEC for use in about 40 endemic countries.