Merck and Universal Corporation Ltd, Kenya agree large-scale production of new pediatric medication to treat schistosomiasis in preschool-aged children
Merck, a leading science and technology company, has entered into a contract manufacturing agreement with Universal Corporation Ltd., Nairobi, Kenya, a subsidiary of Strides Pharma Science Limited, India, for the large-scale production of a new pediatric medication for schistosomiasis in preschool-aged children younger than six, currently in late-stage development. The agreement with Universal includes building up extensive production capacities in Nairobi, Kenya for future provision of the treatment in endemic African countries. It adds to the manufacturing activities of Farmanguinhos, the federal governmental pharmaceutical laboratory of the Fiocruz Foundation in Brazil, which brings expertise in production and distribution.
For school-aged children and adults, praziquantel is the standard of care treatment for schistosomiasis. Merck makes it available by providing the World Health Organization with up to 250 million tablets per year and will continue delivering the treatment until the disease is eliminated. However, the vulnerable group of preschool-aged children has so far been left untreated in public health programs primarily due to the lack of an appropriate child-friendly formulation of the drug.
The new pediatric medication for preschool-aged children, arpraziquantel, is derived from praziquantel. It is smaller and orally dispersible – i.e. it dissolves quickly in the mouth or in water and has acceptable taste properties for children. It is currently being tested in a pivotal clinical Phase III trial in Kenya and Côte d’Ivoire to generate confirmatory data for registration. The new drug is being developed by the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium, a public-private partnership led by Merck, which addresses the medical needs of preschool-aged children infected with schistosomiasis.
“A world free of schistosomiasis is possible. With the new medication, we will be one important step closer to reaching this goal,” said Jutta Reinhard-Rupp, Head of the Global Health Institute at Merck and Chair of the Pediatric Praziquantel Consortium.