Use of new anti-resistance malaria medicines urged by UN health agency

25 April 2002

In an effort to control malaria and save half of the 800,000 children who die of the disease each year, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today urged countries to switch to a new type of treatment whenever there was strong evidence that existing conventional medicines were no longer working.

In an effort to control malaria and save half of the 800,000 children who die of the disease each year, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today urged countries to switch to a new type of treatment whenever there was strong evidence that existing conventional medicines were no longer working.

For decades, the best-known treatment for malaria was chloroquine, an inexpensive medicine that has saved millions of lives, WHO said. In recent years, however, the malaria parasite has developed resistance to the drug and is no longer an effective treatment in many countries. Resistance to a second-generation drug, known as SP or "Fansidar," is also spreading.

As an alternative, WHO today recommended Artemisinin-Based Combination Therapies (ACTs), which are derived in part from a Chinese herb and kill the malaria parasite very fast, allowing the patient to recover rapidly, and with very few side effects.

The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis (TB) and Malaria, meeting in New York, has decided to fund proposals to "Roll Back Malaria" in Zanzibar and Zambia, which include purchasing and phasing-in the use of new ACTs.

The move comes as the number of child deaths due to malaria has begun to increase as a result of failing medicines and medicines of poor quality, WHO said. Recent evidence has also indicated that, because of rising levels of medicine resistance, almost half of the money spent on anti-malarial medicines has been used to pay for inappropriate treatments, highlighting the need for more prevention efforts through proven cost-effective measures such as insecticide treated bed nets.

"We hope that the Fund and other funding mechanisms will be used to purchase ACTs where they are needed to treat malaria and improve the control of the disease in communities at risk," said WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland.

"WHO has worked with a variety of partners including the manufacturers to reduce the price of ACTs in developing countries," she added. "It is important that countries which need ACTs are able to access and use them in a sustainable manner."

 

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