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13 drug companies comply call against malaria pill

13 drug companies comply with UN health agency call against malaria pill

The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today that 13 pharmaceutical companies have agreed to comply with its recommendation to phase out single-drug artemisinin medicines for oral treatment of malaria, as the agency says its use hastens the development of resistance to the drug in malaria parasites.

The companies will now focus their marketing efforts for malaria primarily on Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACTs), in line with WHO recommendations, because when used with other anti-malarial drugs, artemesin is nearly 95 per cent effective in curing uncomplicated malaria and the parasite is highly unlikely to become drug resistant.

“In the last three months, thanks to determined follow-up, we have seen significant progress towards curbing the supply of inappropriate and clinically unsound malaria treatments,” said Dr. Lee Jong-wook, WHO Director-General. “WHO now calls for a complete transition to provision of WHO-recommended combination therapies, in order to preserve the efficacy of these life-saving treatments.”

In January, WHO appealed to all companies to stop marketing single-drug artemisin treatment, or monotherapy, and to re-direct their production efforts towards ACTs. Following this appeal, an additional 23 companies were identified and informed of WHO’s recommendation and 13 said they would comply with the guidance.

Additional companies have also said they are willing to collaborate with WHO on this and the Agency has also called on national drug regulatory authorities in malaria-endemic countries to prohibit marketing of oral artemisinin monotherapies. Since January, 13 countries have announced that they will withdraw marketing authorization for these drugs, and three have started undertaking regulatory measures to do so.

“To eliminate demand for single-drug artemisinin pills, national governments have a critical role to play,” said Dr. Arata Kochi, director of the WHO Global Malaria Programme. “We are monitoring this situation closely, and we will work with authorities and health professionals in countries to support the use of quality ACTs in line with the WHO guidelines.”

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