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Zambia / Counterfeit Medicines / Five Mobile Compact Labs to Detect Counterfeit Medicines Presented to Zambia

By Merck

LUSAKA, Zambia, February 29, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ --

• Global Pharma Health Fund, a charitable initiative funded by the German pharmaceutical, chemical and life science company Merck, donates unique Minilabs to Zambian Health Ministry

• Dr. Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chairman of the Merck Executive Board, meets with Minister of Health, Honorable Dr. Joseph Kasonde

To help improve health care in Zambia, the Global Pharma Health Fund, a charitable initiative funded by the German pharmaceutical, chemical and life science company Merck (http://www.merckgroup.com), has donated five mobile compact laboratories to the Health Ministry in the capital city of Lusaka to help detect counterfeit medicines. The so-called Minilabs can be used to identify inferior and counterfeit medicines rapidly and reliably. In this context, Dr. Karl-Ludwig Kley, Chairman of the Merck Executive Board, met with the Minister of Health of Zambia, Honorable Dr. Joseph Kasonde today in Lusaka.

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Kley's visit to Zambia was the third stop on a trip to Africa that included visits to Tanzania and Zanzibar. He learned first-hand about the progress being made in combating the tropical disease schistosomiasis. Merck has committed itself to eliminating the parasitic worm disease in Africa in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO).

“Counterfeit medicines are a serious threat to health care. With the Minilabs, we are directly protecting people from what can be a deadly risk,” Kley told journalists. “In addition, we are helping to improve the structures for drug monitoring and ensuring that scarce resources are not wasted on worthless, and even hazardous, medicines.” Kley added: “The mobile compact laboratories are globally unique for their ability to detect counterfeits quickly, cost-efficiently and reliably. With them, one can relieve bottlenecks in quality control for medicines, especially in rural areas.”

The International Police Organization Interpol estimates that up to 30% of all medicines in Africa are either counterfeit or of inferior quality. The Global Pharma Health Fund provides help in this context. The Minilab developed by GPHF consists of two portable and tropic-resistant suitcases that contain the means to detect inferior or ineffective medicines. It offers quick, simple and low-cost test methods to check medicines for external abnormalities, identity and content, and identifies 57 active pharmaceutical ingredients, particularly those in medicines commonly used against infectious diseases. The test methods include those for common antibiotics, anthelmintics, virustatics, anti-malarial medicines, tuberculostatics, and other medicines.

To date, the GPHF has supplied about 470 Minilabs at cost, to more than 80 countries. More than half of these countries are located in Africa, and one-third are in Asia. The combination of a simple, reliable test set for onsite testing and a manual with detailed instructions on performing the test is unique. Merck continues to participate in external research with the aim of increasing the number of medicines that can be tested as well as to discover other possibilities for optimizing the Minilab. Training is also offered to ensure that the users are familiar with the test procedure.

Merck aims to eliminate schistosomiasis in cooperation with WHO

In addition to the Minilabs, Merck is involved in another major project that aims to improve health care on the African continent. Together with WHO, Merck is combating the parasitic worm disease schistosomiasis in African schoolchildren. Merck recently committed to maintaining its efforts in Africa, in cooperation with WHO, until schistosomiasis is eliminated. To date, Merck has provided WHO annually with up to 25 million tablets containing the active ingredient praziquantel, free of charge. In the medium term, the company will increase that number tenfold to 250 million per year. The therapy is considered the most effective treatment in the fight against the parasitic worm disease. The sharp increase in the number of tablets to 250 million will enable the treatment of around 100 million children per year. It is estimated that more than 200 million people are infected and that around 200,000 die from schistosomiasis each year.

Distributed by the African Press Organization on behalf of Merck.

More information on the fight against schistosomiasis can be found on the Merck website:

http://www.merckgroup.com/en/responsibility/society/global_responsibility_projects/praziquantel.html

More information about the Minilab is available at:

http://www.merckgroup.com/en/responsibility/society/global_responsibility_projects/fighting_counterfeit_medicines.html

http://www.gphf.org/web/en/start/index.htm
Media contact:
Phyllis Carter
Tel. +49 6151 72-7144
media.relations@merckgroup.com
Background Information
Praziquantel
To date, the active ingredient praziquantel represents the most effective weapon in the treatment of the infectious disease schistosomiasis. Praziquantel is well tolerated and the most effective therapy to date for schistosomiasis. It is therefore on the WHO list of essential drugs. Co-developed more than 30 years ago by Merck KGaA and Bayer, this active ingredient was the main component of a drug first introduced to the general public by both companies under the brand name Biltricide in 1980.

At that time, this drug was celebrated by the media as the world's greatest advance in recent years in the field of tropical medicine and as a major contribution by the research-based German pharmaceutical industry to finding a solution to pressing health issues in developing countries. Until then, there was no effective drug for schistosomiasis on the market yet.

The breakthrough came when researchers at Merck and Bayer developed one out of a total of 400 different compounds that triggers the elimination of all parasites after just one single dose and also showed a very high safety profile: praziquantel. This active ingredient is effective against schistosoma, which causes schistosomiasis, and is also effective against tapeworm infections. Praziquantel differs not only in its more reliable efficacy from known schistosomiasis drugs but also in its high tolerability. The active ingredient causes neither deformations nor hereditary defects and there are no indications of carcinogenic properties.

Praziquantel is administered orally. Depending on liver and kidney functions, praziquantel's half-life amounts to 1.5 to 2.5 hours. Depending on the parasite species and its localization, the drug is administered in different application durations and rates. Praziquantel is effective not only against distoma causing schistosomiasis and related parasites, but also against tapeworms. With some tapeworms, a single-dose treatment with a low dose (10–25 mg per kg bodyweight) is sufficient, but when inner organs or even the central nervous system are affected by pork tapeworm larvae, treatment requires one to two weeks at maximum dose levels of 50 mg per kg bodyweight.

About Merck
Merck (http://www.merckgroup.com) is a global pharmaceutical and chemical company with total revenues of € 9.3 billion in 2010, a history that began in 1668, and a future shaped by more than 40,000 employees in 67 countries. Its success is characterized by innovations from entrepreneurial employees. Merck's operating activities come under the umbrella of Merck KGaA, in which the Merck family holds an approximately 70% interest and shareholders own the remaining approximately 30%. In 1917 the U.S. subsidiary Merck & Co. was expropriated and has been an independent company ever since.

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