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WHO Warns Of Shortage Of Anti-Malarial Drug

WHO Warns Of Shortage Of Anti-Malarial Drug, Suggests Alternatives

As increasing demand for artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) for malaria is likely to result in a shortage in the next four months, the United Nations public health agency has advised certain countries to be prepared to use alternative medicines.

"Countries where malaria is resistant to conventional treatment such as chloroquine should switch to ACTs," the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement, recommending the use of four ACTs: artemether-lumefantrine, artesunate-mefloquine, artesunate-amodiaquine and artesunate-sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine.

As many as 40 countries - half of them in Africa - have officially adopted these medicines since 2001 when WHO concluded an agreement with Novartis Pharma AG. Novartis provides its co-formulated artemether-lumefantrine product (Coartem) to WHO at cost for supply to the public sector of malaria endemic in developing countries.

Coartem, which is the only ACT that has been pre-qualified by WHO, is accepted for procurement by UN agencies.

The demand for artemether-lumefantrine has increased since 2001, when WHO requested 220,000 treatment courses for the public sector. In 2004, demand of 10 million treatment courses was forecast. For 2005, WHO projects demand for 60 million treatment courses.

WHO said it would be unable to procure the quantities of artemether-lumefantrine required by countries during the coming months due to insufficient supply of the drug from Novartis' Chinese suppliers.

Recommending the use of quinine as "second-line" anti-malarial treatment, the UN agency said it would offer technical assistance to any country facing interrupted supply of artemether-lumefantrine.

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