Low-Cost Antimalarial Pill Available!

March 2, 2007

A child finds out he got Malaria

God, finally some good news to cheer my day up!

A new, cheap, easy-to-take pill to treat malaria is being introduced today, the first product of an innovative partnership between an international drug company and a medical charity.

The medicine, called ASAQ, is a pill combining artemisinin, invented in China using sweet wormwood and hailed as a miracle malaria drug, with amodiaquine, an older drug that still works in many malarial areas.

A treatment will cost less than $1 for adults and less than 50 cents for children. Adults with malaria will take only two pills a day for three days, and the pill will come in three smaller once-a-day sizes for infants, toddlers and youngsters.

Needless to say, this is a very good thing, and a team effort as well:

“This is a good thing,” said Dr. Arata Kochi, chief of the World Health Organization’s global malaria program, who has publicly demanded that drug companies stop making pills that contain artemisinin alone because they will lead to resistant strains of malaria. “They’re responding to the kind of drug profile we’ve been promoting.”

[…]Sanofi-Aventis, the world’s fourth-largest drug company, based in Paris, will sell the pill at cost to international health agencies like the W.H.O., Unicef and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The rollout of the drug is the result of a two-year partnership between Sanofi and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, a campaign started by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders to find new drugs for tropical diseases.

Doctors Without Borders, better known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières, has long been one of the harshest critics of the pharmaceutical industry, charging that it spent billions on drugs like Viagra, Ambien and Prozac for rich countries and almost nothing on diseases killing millions of poor people.

But, recognizing that new drugs would have to come from the industry’s major players, Doctors Without Borders founded the initiative in 2003 and began seeking partnerships. This is the first to come to fruition.

See, ain’t that the way to do things? Major disagreements, but communication is still open, and compromise. I know a government or two that could apply these principles into practice.

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Top 10 Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2006

January 11, 2007

Severe malnutrition still a problem

This great report comes from Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medicins Sans Frontieres, one of the best humanitarian organizations around, and winners of the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize as well.

According to the press release of the article:

New York — The staggering human toll taken by tuberculosis and malnutrition as well as the devastation caused by wars in the Central African Republic (CAR), Sri Lanka, and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), are among the “Top Ten” Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2006, according to the year-end list released today by the international humanitarian medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The ninth annual list also highlights the lack of media attention paid to the plight of people affected by the consequences of conflict in Haiti, Somalia, Colombia, Chechnya, and central India.

“Many conflicts worldwide are profoundly affecting millions of people, yet they are almost completely invisible,” said MSF Executive Director Nicolas de Torrenté. “Haiti, for example, is just 500 miles from the United States and the plight of the population enduring relentless violence in its volatile capital Port-au-Prince received only half a minute of network coverage in an entire year.”

According to Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the online media-tracking journal The Tyndall Report, the 10 countries and contexts highlighted by MSF accounted for just 7.2 minutes of the 14,512 minutes on the three major U.S. television networks’ nightly newscasts for 2006. Treating malnutrition, tuberculosis, and Chechnya were mentioned, but only briefly in other stories. Five of the countries highlighted by MSF were never mentioned at all.

These issues were given all of 7 minutes of airtime – how noble of the mainstream media, which prefers spending its time say, badgering a Senator over a poorly executed joke.

In no particular order, here is the top ten. You can read the entire report here by the way, but the links below correspond to the specific sections of the report. You can read the whole thing, or just what interests you.

Somalia – Somalis Trapped by War and Disaster
Central African Republic – Fleeing Violence in the Central African Republic (CAR)
Tuberculosis – Increasing Human Toll Taken by Tuberculosis
Chechnya – Consequences of Bitter Conflict in Chechnya
Sri Lanka – Civilians Under Fire in Sri Lanka While Assistance is Limited
Malnutrition – Effective Strategies for Treating Malnutrition Not Implemented
Democratic Republic of Congo – Congolese Endure Extreme Deprivation and Violence
Colombia – Living in Fear in Colombia
Haiti – Violence Rages in Haiti’s Volatile Capital
Central India – Clashes in Central India