Pfizer's continued donation program will help accelerate significant progress made in the last decade to reduce trachoma through increased donations, resulting in a roughly 50 percent decrease in the number of people at risk of trachoma worldwide today compared to 2011.
Pfizer's donation through 2025, should it be needed, ensures Zithromax will be available to help all endemic countries reach their targets to achieve the worldwide elimination of trachoma. Recently, Nepal became the sixth country to be validated by the WHO as having eliminated trachoma, joining Oman, Morocco, Mexico, Cambodia and Lao PDR.
Several other countries have either submitted documentation for validation by the WHO or are fast approaching elimination targets. In Uganda, for example, the number of people at risk of trachoma has decreased dramatically, from 10 million four years ago to less than 300,000 today.
"Trachoma affects the poorest of the poor and traps millions in a cycle of poverty," said Caroline Roan, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, Pfizer Inc. "We are grateful for our partnership with the global health community over the past 20 years, and recognize the importance of our donation in achieving our shared goal of a trachoma-free world. We are excited to extend our donation program through 2025 to help eliminate trachoma from even the most remote communities."
Trachoma is a treatable and preventable bacterial eye disease that after repeated infections, can cause eyelids to turn inward and lashes to scrape the eyeball, causing great pain, corneal ulcers and over time, irreversible blindness. Trachoma is both a consequence and a cause of poverty, primarily affecting remote communities with severely limited access to healthcare, clean water or sanitation. The disease accounts for an estimated $3-6 billion USD in lost productivity per year.
Antibiotics are a key part of the WHO-recommended SAFE strategy for trachoma control (Surgery, Antibiotics, Facial Cleanliness and Environmental Improvements). To date, Pfizer has donated more than 740 million doses of Zithromax through ITI, which was co-founded by Pfizer in 1998 and collaborates with more than 100 government, non-governmental and private sector partners to implement the SAFE strategy around the world.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center works with six African countries to eliminate trachoma, was grateful for Pfizer's recommitment. "The Carter Center and Pfizer have worked together for 20 years to help implement a comprehensive strategy that has proven incredibly effective against trachoma," said Carter, 93, who was awarded the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize, in part for his work through The Carter Center. "The gains we have made would not have been possible without Pfizer’s generous commitment to donating Zithromax. There is still considerable work to be done to beat trachoma, but with Pfizer's extended commitment the end is in reach."
Recent progress reflects the remarkable impact of the world's largest disease mapping initiative - the Global Trachoma Mapping Project - launched in 2012. Through this effort, our partners (including Sightsavers, The United Kingdom Department for International Development, and The Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Trust) used a smartphone-based app to create a household-level overview of where trachoma can be found. This data has enabled Pfizer and ITI to deliver donated antibiotics to affected communities more efficiently and effectively than ever before.
As a result of this innovative mapping project, "We now know not only how to eliminate trachoma, but where to find it and which partners on the ground can help us reach the communities still in need," said Dr. Paul Emerson, Director, ITI. "Continued antibiotic donations are essential to maintaining this progress, and while much work remains, I am more confident than ever that we can eliminate this ancient disease within the next decade."
That's a goal Pfizer shares with health authorities in communities most vulnerable to trachoma. "With support from Pfizer, ITI and the rest of our trachoma partners around the world, we have been able to greatly extend our elimination efforts and reach millions of people in Uganda with sight-saving interventions, including Zithromax," said Dr. Edridah Muheki Tukahebwa, National Coordinator of the NTD Control Program for the Uganda Ministry of Health. "This program is doing more than just ridding communities of a cause of debilitating blindness - it's removing a key social and economic impediment, and helping us progress toward a future where all Ugandans are healthy enough to go to school, find work and live a more productive, rewarding life."
Pfizer Inc.: Working together for a healthier world®At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to bring therapies to people that extend and significantly improve their lives. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacture of health care products. Our global portfolio includes medicines and vaccines as well as many of the world's best-known consumer health care products. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as one of the world's premier innovative biopharmaceutical companies, we collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, we have worked to make a difference for all who rely on us.
About the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI)The International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) was co-founded in 1998 by Pfizer Inc. and the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in response to the WHO call to achieve Global Elimination of Trachoma by the year 2020 (GET 2020). The ITI is currently administered by the Task Force for Global Health, an independent nonprofit. To achieve that goal, ITI collaborates with governmental and NGO agencies at the local, national and international levels to implement the WHO-recommended SAFE strategy for trachoma control.