Merck Praziquantel Donation Program (MPDP)

Partnership objectives

Eliminate the worm disease schistosomiasis in Africa. 

Merck donated over 200 million Praziquantel tablets in 2016, over 500 million since 2008. Merck donated over 200 million Praziquantel tablets in 2016, over 500 million since 2008. Copyright Merck KGaA

What are the health needs and challenges?

Over 200 million people in Africa suffer from the widespread tropical worm disease schistosomiasis. Every year, more than 280,000 die as a result of this insidious illness, which is caused by flatworms and spread through stagnant water. People become infected by the worm larvae while doing activities such as swimming, fishing, playing, or washing their clothes. The larvae penetrate human skin, enter the blood vessels and attack internal organs such as the liver, colon, spleen, or bladder. The infection rate is especially high among children, and the symptoms that result are particularly serious; schistosomiasis stunts growth, causes learning disabilities, and leads to anemia.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

Since 2007, Merck has been supporting the World Health Organization (WHO) in the fight against schistosomiasis in Africa. Since the start of the Merck Praziquantel Donation Program, over 500 million tablets have been donated. To date, more than 100 million patients in total have been treated, consisting primarily of children. Merck intends to accelerate the process and is increasing the number of tablets donated annually to up to 250 million tablets in the medium term. In 2016 alone, Merck provided 200 million PZQ tablets to WHO for distribution across 33 African countries(Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Côte D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Mauritania, Malawi, Mali, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Swaziland, Tunisia, Zambia, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe). In 2015, Merck supplied 23 African countries with tablets, a collaborative effort with the World Health Organization.  Merck doubled its donation from 100 million tablets in 2015 to 200 million tablets in 2016.

Praziquantel is the most effective therapy to date for schistosomiasis infections - often even after just one dose - and it is well tolerated. It is therefore on the WHO list of essential drugs.

The Merck Praziquantel Donation Program is conducted in partnership with WHO, each partner contributing its specific expertise. Merck’s role is to supply WHO with the tablets and to cover the logistic costs of transporting the tablets to Africa. WHO steers the distribution of praziquantel, monitoring drug distribution and disclosure.

Awareness and prevention are also crucial in the fight against schistosomiasis. Merck supports an educational program at African schools to educate children on the causes of the disease. To achieve this, Merck supplies schools and teachers with easy-to-understand materials for their lessons. Merck has also helped the Uraha Foundation set up a local radio station in northern Malawi. As well as reporting local news and culture, the radio features shows that educate people on schistosomiasis.

In partnership with WHO, Merck provides posters and booklets to African schools that are available in English, French, Arabic, Portuguese, and Swahili. In 2016, Merck expanded its education program and donated a total of 340,000 booklets to WHO for distribution in ten countries (Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, Burundi, Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ghana, Sudan, Guinea Bissau, and Tanzania.

Lessons learned           

Since 2012, Merck has stepped up its commitment and activities with the aim of enhancing its contribution to the elimination of schistosomiasis by its 5 step approach:  

  • Extending the MPDP until elimination
  • Increasing annual donations of PZQ
  • Broadening our education program
  • Optimizing the current formulation of PZQ
  • Developing a pediatric version of PZQ

Merck recognizes that interventions beyond product donations are required to achieve elimination. In May 2014, Merck initiated the proposal to create a global schistosomiasis alliance. Merck is a founding member of this global alliance aiming at bringing NTD constituencies together to encourage holistic, integrated approaches to better meet the set elimination target of schistosomiasis.


Fighting schistosomiasis

Partnership information

Company(ies) Merck

Partner(s) Angola Ministry of Health, Cameroon Ministry of Health, Central African Republic Ministry of Health, Democratic Republic of Congo Ministry of Health, Ethiopian Ministry of Health, Kenya Ministry of Health, Madagascar Ministry of Health, Malawi Ministry of Health, Mali Ministry of Health, Mauritania Ministry of Health, Mozambique Ministry of Health, Nigerian Ministry of Health, Rep. of Congo Ministry of Health, Rwanda Ministry of Health, Senegal Ministry of Health, Sudan Ministry of Health, Tanzania Ministry of Health, World Health Organization (WHO), Zimbabwe Ministry of Health

Type of Partner(s) Government, IGOs

Therapeutic Focus Neglected Tropical Diseases

Disease(s) Schistosomiasis

Program Type(s) Availability of Treatment - Differential Pricing, Availability of Treatment - Financial Support, Availability of Treatment - Product Donations, Availability of Treatment - Technology Transfer - Scientific Collaboration and Knowledge Sharing, Prevention Programs - Mass Drug Administrations (MDA)

Targeted Population(s) Children, Marginalised / Indigenous People, Patients in needs of treatment, People with low income, Youth

Region(s) Sub-Saharan Africa

Number of Countries 19

Country(ies) Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe

Start Date 2007

More information Fighting Schistosomiasis

Anticipated completion date Ongoing

« After malaria, schistosomiasis is considered the most prevalent tropical disease in Africa. Merck's commitment not only helps infected children, but also supports our public health care system. »

Under Secretary of the Sudanese Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Isam M. Abd Allah