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.


The AIDS-Malaria connection, and more

December 18, 2006

Such is the title of one of today’s New York Times op-ed:

In a paper published in the journal Science, researchers looked at health records from Kisumu, Kenya, a city of 200,000 with high levels of both diseases. They calculated that the interaction of the diseases increased AIDS cases by 8 percent and malaria by 13 percent. Over 25 years, that meant 8,500 additional AIDS cases and almost a million extra cases of malaria. The researchers drew on earlier findings that H.I.V.-positive people who get malaria experience a six- to eight-week spike in the level of the AIDS virus in their blood. During that spike, they are supercontagious, with double the usual chance of infecting a sexual partner. People with H.I.V. have also been proved more likely to catch malaria.

The scientific paper in question is titled, Dual Infection with HIV and Malaria Fuels the Spread of Both Diseases in Sub-Saharan Africa, by Laith Abu-Raddad.

From the paper’s abstract:

Mounting evidence has revealed pathological interactions between HIV and malaria in dually infected patients, but the public health implications of the interplay have remained unclear. A transient almost one-log elevation in HIV viral load occurs during febrile malaria episodes; in addition, susceptibility to malaria is enhanced in HIV-infected patients.

Also take a look at this article from Yahoo News.

Of course, the bigger picture here is not just an AIDS-Malaria connection. We know there are other factors involved, such as poverty and the lack of education, both basic education and more direct education regarding hygiene, disease, etc. Also, maternal education here is important, as a mothers’ malaria appears to enhance spread of AIDS virus (from the journal Science also):

For the first time, a study of HIV-infected pregnant women has found that coinfection with malaria significantly increased a mother’s risk of transmitting the AIDS virus to her baby before or during birth.

It’s great that the mainstream media is finally taking a good, hard look (albeit a brief one) at the existing global health problems – all the more reason why we, as future medical professionals and global health advocates, need to push hard and continue lobbying and informing people.

Malaria vaccine within sight…

December 9, 2006

But don’t get your hopes up too much, there is still a lot of work to do:

The challenge faced by the medical and scientific community stems partly from the nature of the causative parasite which is unlike other organisms that cause infectious diseases. ‘’Until now, we don’t have a vaccine against parasites; only against bacteria and viruses,” Morel said. ‘’The malaria parasite is very smart.”

By the way, the blood parasite Plasmodium which is spread by mosquitoes, is very, very preventable & treatable