Currently, infants and very young children who are infected with schistosomiasis cannot receive adequate treatment. The standard praziquantel therapy is available only as oral tablets for adults and children from the age of six. Moreover younger children cannot always swallow these tablets because of their size and bitter taste. A pediatric formulation is desperately needed to develop an adequate treatment for the most vulnerable age group. This has led to the establishment of the first international public-private partnership in schistosomiasis. The objective of this partnership is to develop a formulation of praziquantel more suited to young children.
The partners involved in this newly created consortium coordinated by TI Pharma are Merck, Astellas Pharma Inc. and Swiss TPH.
Merck develops and produces Praziquantel tablets. The company is already engaged in the fight against schistosomiasis in Africa through its donation program with the World Health Organization. Merck is strengthening this commitment by initiating this project and bringing its product and drug development know-how.
Astellas Pharma Inc. contributes to the development of the first ever pediatric formulation of praziquantel by utilizing its innovative pharmaceutical technologies that help improve convenience of use and functionality through the removal of praziquantel's bitter taste.
Swiss TPH will contribute its extensive experience in biological and pharmacological helminths research and its clinical research on the efficacy and effectiveness of drugs in endemic areas, generally low resource environments.
The Dutch non-profit organization TI Pharma is the independent partner which facilitates the governance of this project. TI Pharma has an extensive program on priority medicines and several other neglected tropical diseases (euSEND).
All the partners are highly motivated to address the need to treat schistosomiasis in very young children, some of whom are only 3 months old when they become infected. The new pediatric dosage of praziquantel will make an important contribution to the better control and potential elimination of this neglected tropical disease.