Global Health: New Inexpensive Malaria Drug introduced by NGO initiative

img No Malaria  Every year, malaria kills 1-2 million people and infects 300-500 million. 90 percent of deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. The disease is present in over 100 countries, threatening 40 percent of the world’s population.

Malaria remains the single largest cause of death for children under five in Africa — it kills one child every thirty seconds worldwide.

Today a new, inexpensive, easy-to-take anti-malaria pill is being introduced by French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis in partnership with Drugs for Neglected Diseases, a campaign started by the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

Sanofi-Aventis and the non-profit Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) announced today that ASAQ, the new fixed-dose combination of artesunate (AS) and amodiaquine (AQ), will soon be available throughout sub-Saharan Africa. ASAQ is the first drug developed by the FACT (Fixed-dose, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy) partners, managed by DNDi in partnership with Sanofi-Aventis.

Chloroquine, developed in 1934, was the first very cheap (USD0.10 per treatment) and easy to administer anti-malaria drug. But today resistance to Chloroquine has reached over 90 percent in many parts of Africa and the World Health Organization since some years strongly recommends to use artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT). These drug combinations are more effective, allow for shorter treatment courses, and protect each individual drug from resistance.

ASAQ, the drug introduced today, is one of the four ACTs recommended by WHO since 2001 to thwart the emergence of resistances. And it will be available in an easy to administer fixed-dose formulation.

Treatment with the drug will cost less than USD 0.50 for children under five, and less than USD 1 for adolescents and adults, that’s 40-50% less expensive for adults than the separate tablets. Further price decreases will be necessary to make the treatment available everywhere, says “Doctors without Borders”.

Sanofi-Aventis will sell the drug at cost to international groups such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

It will be quite interesting to see how – in particular the Global Fund or better to say the implementing organizations being financed by it – will restructure their budgets to reflect such change in cost.

We have learned that senior staff members of this organization that have more than two years ago asked top management to leverage the market position of the organization towards such regional / country owned solutions and create such public/ private partnerships (note: public/ private partnerships are one of the core principles of that organization) have been shown the door and are still threatened by the organization.

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) is an independent, not-for-profit drug development initiative established in 2003 by five public sector research organisations: Oswaldo Cruz Foundation Brazil, ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the Malaysian Ministry of Health and the Institut Pasteur along with Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders).

More information at:
MsF press release
DNDi press release
Sanofi-Aventis press release

P.S. We remember a quote from the Times a few years ago saying that every second person who ever lived on this planet died from Malaria…

It does not need to be like that anymore…

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