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Wednesday, 23 May, 2001, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Africa to get cheap malaria drug
Malaria
Malaria causes much misery in Africa
A new treatment for malaria is to be made available to developing countries at cost price.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has joined forces with Swiss pharmaceutical firm Novartis to ensure that the drug Coartem is made available to patients who desperately need it.


Novartis will forgo any profit in favour of getting this medicine to patients

Daniel Vasella, Novartis
Novartis will supply the new therapy for use in Africa and other regions where the disease is endemic at a cost of approximately 10 US cents a tablet or less than US$2.50 per treatment for adults.

The drug has been sold in Switzerland under the name of Riamet since 1999 for about US$44 dollars.

The WHO will establish a group of experts to consider requests for supplies which will be distributed through governments and non-governmental organisations.

Malaria kills more than one million people every year.

WHO Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland said: "The resources, know-how and technologies are there. We just need to put them at the disposal of the poorest."

Resistance

Over the last 10 years, the malaria parasite has become increasingly resistant to the current most common treatment.

But the new treatment, a mixture of a Chinese plant-based remedy and a synthetic substance, has shown cure rates of more than 95% - even in areas of multi-drug resistance.

In the last 30 years, the death rate from malaria in Africa has increased by nearly 50%.

Despite efforts to fight the disease, it still accounts for at least one in five deaths among children under five in Africa.

Daniel Vasella, chief executive officer of Novartis, said: "Novartis will forgo any profit in favour of getting this medicine to patients who otherwise would never have the chance to receive effective malaria treatment."

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26 Jul 99 | Medical notes
Malaria
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