Page last updated at 16:03 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 17:03 UK

Millions for malaria drug scheme

By Jane Dreaper
Health correspondent, BBC News

Mosquito
Mosquitoes carry malaria

The UK government is donating £40m to a new global effort which aims to bring down the price of malaria drugs.

The idea is to widen access to more effective medicines for people in developing countries.

Malaria still claims the lives a million people a year, including 2,000 children a day in Africa.

In total, £150m is being donated by governments and international bodies, which will go to help people in 10 African countries and Cambodia.

13p treatment

Under the two-year pilot, the international donations will be used to negotiate price cuts for the combinations of drugs which are needed to beat the resistance built up by the malaria parasite.

These medicines are much more expensive than older treatments - especially at market stalls or in private pharmacies, where many patients in developing countries will be buying them.

The global partners, backed by the UK and Norwegian governments, believe the initiative will slash the price of combination treatment from £7 a course to as little as 13p.

In return, the size of the subsidy means the manufacturers are getting a predictable level of increased demand.

Philippe Douste-Blazy, who leads UNITAID, a French organisation which seeks innovative ways of raising money for global health, said: "The UK has been a crucial player in advancing the agenda.

"As we ride the wave of the global economic crisis, it is essential we don't turn our backs on the people who are less lucky."

Reducing the burden of illness and death from malaria is one of the Millennium Development Goals, which are supposed to be fulfilled by 2015.

The executive director of the Global Fund, Michel Kazatchkine, said: "There's no reason any more for any child to die from malaria.

"This is a very wise investment in global health."



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