Colombia first country in the world to eradicate river blindness

Merck celebrated on Wednesday the government of Colombia for becoming the first country to eliminate Onchocerciasis, or river blindness.

Colombia is officially the first country in the world to eliminate river blindness, the World Health Oraganization's Regional Office for the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization, confirmed Wednesday. It was achieved by a partnership between Merck's MECTIZAN Donation Program and the Carter Center-sponsored Onchocerciasis Elimination Program for the Americas through the use of the MECTIZAN, or ivermectin, drug.

"We are humbled by the great work of the MECTIZAN Donation Program and its partners in protecting future generations of Colombians from a disease that carries devastating implications for people, families, healthcare systems and local economies" Chairman of Chief Executive Officer of Merck Kenneth C. Frazier said. "It is tremendously rewarding to see the alliance of partners achieve the long-held goal of making river blindness a disease of the past in Colombia."

Onchocerciasis is one of the most common causes of preventable blindness in the world. In 1987, Merck initiated the MECTIZAN Donation Program as a way to eradicate onchocerciasis.

The program comes to the aid of more than 100 million people annually. In Latin America alone, more than 10 million treatments of the drug have been donated. Merck has committed to donating MECTIZAN for as long as it is necessary.