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Mectizan Donation Program

Active Since: 1987

Contributing to SDGs…

The MECTIZAN® (ivermectin) Donation Program (MDP) was established over 30 years ago and is the longest-running disease-specific drug donation program and public-private partnership of its kind.



  • Global NGOs

    Carter Center

    Helen Keller International

    Interchurch Medical Assistance (IMA)

    Light for the World

    Lions Club International

    Task Force for Global Health

    United Front Against River Blindness

    Organisation pour la Prevention de la Cecite

    Christian Blind Mission International (CBMI)

    Global Alliance to End LF

    Sightsavers International

  • Intergovernmental Organizations and Multilaterals

    World Health Organization (WHO)

    World Bank

    Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)


  • Pharma (Non-IPFMA Member)


    Eisia Inc.


  • Elimination of transmission of onchocerciasis globally.
  • Elimination of lymphatic filariasis (LF) as a public health problem in African countries co- endemic for onchocerciasis and LF.
  • Support elimination of LF as a public health problem globally through triple therapy with Mectizan.

What are the health needs and challenges?
Onchocerciasis, or river blindness, is a debilitating disease that threatens the health and livelihood of more than 198 million people in parts of Africa, Latin America and the Middle East, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Onchocerciasis is transmitted through the bite of black flies and can cause intense itching, disfiguring dermatitis, eye lesions and, eventually, blindness. While the original goal of the program was to control the disease, recent evidence from WHO indicates that elimination is now feasible. As a result, the program’s strategy shifted from river blindness control to elimination of disease transmission.

Lymphatic filariasis (LF) is a devastating parasitic infection spread by mosquitoes. It is caused by thread-like parasitic worms that damage the human lymphatic system. According to the WHO, the disease is estimated to infect over 120 million people, with more than 40 million incapacitated or disfigured with swelling of the limbs and breasts (lymphoedema) and genitals (hydrocele), or swollen limbs with dramatically thickened, hard, rough and fissured skin (elephantiasis). Around 886 million people are at risk, around 37 percent of those infected live in Africa .

Partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges:
In 1987, MSD* announced that it would donate MECTIZAN® (Ivermectin), our breakthrough medicine for the treatment of onchocerciasis, to all who needed it for as long as needed.

To facilitate the donation and delivery of MECTIZAN, MSD established a multi-sectoral partnership, involving the WHO, the World Bank and UNICEF, as well as ministries of health, nongovernmental development organizations and local communities. In 1988, MSD established the MECTIZAN Donation Program (MDP), housed at the Task Force for Global Health, to provide medical, technical and administrative oversight of the donation of MECTIZAN.

In 1998, MSD expanded the donation to include mass treatment for the elimination of LF, commonly referred to as elephantiasis, in African countries where the disease co-exists with river blindness. In 2017, the donation of MECTIZAN was once again expanded to provide an additional 100 million treatments per year through 2025 to support the elimination of LF globally, in countries where onchocerciasis is not endemic. The most recent expansion supports WHO’s guidelines for the elimination of LF with annual treatments of a combination of the “IDA” triple therapy to at-risk populations.

The program reaches more than 340 million people in 32 countries annually, with more than 3.45 billion treatments since 1987. The Mectizan Donation Program is the longest-running, disease-specific drug donation program and public/private partnership of its kind, and is widely regarded as one of the most successful public/private health collaborations in the world. The donation of MECTIZAN and the public-private partnership that resulted influenced other drug donation programs, leading to the development of a new sector of global health to address “neglected tropical diseases” (NTDs). A community-directed treatment strategy used to distribute MECTIZAN (called “Community Directed Treatment with Ivermectin (CTDI)” ) was developed during the first decade of the Program, which strengthens primary health care by training community-directed distributors (CDDs), and by enabling other health services to be provided in the rural communities where river blindness and LF are found.

While much has been achieved in the treatment and progress toward elimination of onchocerciasis, a number of additional challenges remain that MSD and partners are actively addressing.

*MSD is known as Merck & Co., Inc. in the United States & Canada

Looking back on the last 30 years of the Mectizan Donation Program, I am proud of what we’ve accomplished together because it means that we have saved and improved the lives of millions of people living where the diseases are endemic.
Kenneth C. Frazier
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, MSD


SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing

  1. 3.2: Reduce Under-5 Mortality 
  2. 3.3: Communicable Diseases & NTDs

SDG 5: Gender Equality

SDG 10: Reduced Inequalities

SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals 


An estimated 40,000 cases of blindness are prevented by the MECTIZAN Donation Program annually. In addition, the donation of MECTIZAN led to the development of CDTI (community-directed treatment with ivermectin) programs, through which trained community volunteers distribute medicines, a critical element in effective mass-treatment programs in remote areas that often lack trained healthcare workers.

In Latin America, WHO has verified that river blindness has been eliminated in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala and Mexico. In Africa, national onchocerciasis elimination committees (NOECs) have been established in 21 of the 29 endemic countries. Under the guidance of the NOECs, MECTIZAN treatment has stopped many areas and more than 11.5 million people no longer need treatment for onchocerciasis in these areas.

For LF, Togo in 2017 and Yemen in 2019, both received validation from WHO that the disease had been eliminated as a public health problem. Three other countries, Malawi, Mali and Yemen, have stopped treatment with MECTIZAN in all endemic communities and are currently conducting the post-treatment surveillance necessary for validation. In addition, more than 114 million people in sub-national regions of 12 other countries no longer need MECTIZAN treatment for LF, as the transmission of the disease has been interrupted

The WHO established goals to eliminate lymphatic filariasis and river blindness by 2020 and 2025, respectively. In 2017, MSD announced an expansion of the MDP to an additional 100 million people per year through 2025, following the publication of new WHO guidelines showing that adding ivermectin to the treatment regimen used in LF endemic countries where there is no river blindness can accelerate the time needed to achieve elimination of LF to support the elimination of LF globally, in countries where onchocerciasis is not endemic. The most recent expansion supports WHO’s guidelines for the elimination of LF with annual treatments of a combination of the “IDA” triple therapy to at-risk populations.

In 2019 alone, 344 million treatments were approved and shipped to endemic countries for the elimination of river blindness and LF.