Pfizer's $20 million donation of the long-acting antibiotic Zithromax (azithromycin), which is effective against trachoma with a single annual oral dose, has propelled the worldwide effort against the disease into its second phase.
The International Trachoma Initiative-co-founded by Pfizer-is expanding its program in Vietnam and establishing a new one in Nepal, two countries with the highest incidence of trachoma, the world's leading cause of preventable blindness. Six million people in developing countries have the disease, and an estimated ten percent of the world's population is at risk for it.
Pfizer and the New York-based Edna McConnell Clark Foundation set up the ITI in 1998 to eliminate trachoma in six countries: Vietnam, Morocco, Tanzania, Sudan, Mali, and Ghana. With Pfizer's total donation of more than $200 million since the program's beginning, ITI has helped save the eyesight of five million people in those countries.ITI's program is known as SAFE, which stands for:
In Nepal, where trachoma is the second leading cause of blindness, the disease is clustered mainly in the far western regions of Terai, disproportionately affecting certain ethnic groups. The trachoma-control effort there there will focus on seven districts.