In developing countries with limited clean water or sanitation, neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) can be devastating. One such disease that hits these communities hard is soil-transmitted helminthiasis (STH), otherwise known as intestinal worm infections.
It affects around 2 billion people worldwide—over a quarter of the global population.
STH afflicts both adults and children. However, children are more greatly affected because infections during the formative developmental periods of their lives can lead to malnutrition, anemia and delayed physical and cognitive development. More than 800 million children live in endemic areas in need of treatment and preventive interventions.
The good news is that drugs exist to treat NTDs, and they are reaching communities in greater numbers than ever before. This is due, in large part, to the 2012 London Declaration on NTDs, a landmark agreement between the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies and other leading organizations to donate significant quantities of existing NTD treatments and develop new tools to combat these diseases.
This week, we’re marking the fifth anniversary of the London Declaration and recognizing the considerable progress that has been achieved since 2012. I am especially proud of Johnson & Johnson’s leadership in meeting all of our London Declaration commitments.
One of our commitments included developing a new chewable, child-friendly formulation of mebendazole, an essential treatment for STH.
We have donated more than 1 billion courses of mebendazole for mass distribution programs in schools worldwide—and we’re committed to donating 200 million doses of tablets each year until 2020.
What Makes This Treatment So Important
When mixed with a few drops of water, the chewable mebendazole tablet forms a soft mass, making it easier to treat STH in children too young to swallow a solid tablet.
The tablet is also an alternative treatment for older children and adults—one that does not have to be taken with water. This is especially important for communities that have limited access to clean drinking water. In October 2016, we achieved a major milestone when the new chewable version of mebendazole was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat children as young as 1 year old.
Developing new treatment options for STH is crucial, but we also need to expand effective distribution channels to ensure medicines reach people in need. For more than a decade, we have been a lead partner for Children Without Worms—an organization that supports the implementation of national STH programs and distribution of our donated medicines—in partnership with the nonprofit Task Force for Global Health.
To date, as part of a long-standing commitment to address STH that started in 2006, we have donated more than 1 billion courses of mebendazole for mass distribution programs in schools worldwide—and we’re committed, through our London Declaration pledge, to donating up to 200 million doses of tablets each year until 2020.
Controlling and eliminating NTDs is a major global health challenge and considerable work remains. But working together under the London Declaration framework, we have gained significant momentum over the past five years and I am excited to see what we can accomplish as we reaffirm our commitments to beat NTDs.