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:
- "S" for surgery to treat complications that may cause blindness if left untreated
- "A" for antibiotics to treat active trachoma infections
- "F" to encourage increased face washing to reduce disease transmission
- "E" for environmental changes to increase access to clean water and improved sanitation.
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