World Health Assembly Resolution 50.29, adopted in 1997, committed the World Health Organization (WHO) and its member states to eliminate lymphatic filariasis (LF) as a public health problem. In 2000, to support this ambitious goal and the health ministries in the >70 LF-endemic countries, the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF) was created. The resulting WHO elimination strategy consists of two main components: to stop the spread of infection by interrupting transmission and to alleviate the suffering of affected populations (by controlling morbidity). The GPELF has brought together a broad global partnership of public and private actors, including three pharmaceutical companies with headquarters in three different continents. The medicine donations programmes from GlaxoSmithKline, MSD (trade name of Merck & Co., Kenilworth, NJ, USA) and Eisai have enabled significant achievements during the first 20 y of the GPELF and are positioned to provide essential contributions to the GPELF's goals for the next decade. As we celebrate the progress towards LF elimination during the GPELF's first 20 y, this article reflects on the factors that led to the creation of the three donation programmes, the contributions these programmes have made and some lessons learned along the way. We close by emphasizing our continued commitments to LF elimination and perspectives on the next decade.