Thursday, March 01, 2007

Doctors Without Borders Campaign To Find New Drugs For Tropical Diseases Begins To Bear Fruit With Roll-Out Of Low-Cost Anti-Malarial Pill

"A new, cheap, easy-to-take pill to treat malaria is being introduced today, the first product of an innovative partnership between an international drug company and a medical charity.

The medicine, called ASAQ, is a pill combining artemisinin, invented in China using sweet wormwood and hailed as a miracle malaria drug, with amodiaquine, an older drug that still works in many malarial areas.

A treatment will cost less than $1 for adults and less than 50 cents for children. Adults with malaria will take only two pills a day for three days, and the pill will come in three smaller once-a-day sizes for infants, toddlers and youngsters.

In Africa, malaria kills 3,000 babies and children each day, but combination drugs like this are not available for children under 11 pounds, and they require taking a larger number of pills each day, as many as 24 for some adult versions.

“This is a good thing,” said Dr. Arata Kochi, chief of the World Health Organization’s global malaria program, who has publicly demanded that drug companies stop making pills that contain artemisinin alone because they will lead to resistant strains of malaria. “They’re responding to the kind of drug profile we’ve been promoting.”

Doctors like to treat diseases with multidrug cocktails because it cuts down the chance that resistance to any one drug will develop.

Adm. R. Timothy Ziemer, coordinator of President Bush’s $1.2 billion Malaria Initiative, said the program would be willing to buy the new pill, assuming it meets international safety standards and is requested by countries the initiative supports.

Sanofi-Aventis, the world’s fourth-largest drug company, based in Paris, will sell the pill at cost to international health agencies like the W.H.O., Unicef and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

The rollout of the drug is the result of a two-year partnership between Sanofi and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative, a campaign started by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders to find new drugs for tropical diseases." ...

Donald G. McNeil, Jr "Health: Low-Cost Antimalaria Pill Available" New York Times March 1, 2007


Meningitis: Vaccine Shortage Threatens Epidemic Response

Barely two months into Africa's dry season, several countries are facing severe meningitis outbreaks. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is responding to epidemics in the Democratic Republic of Congo, southern Sudan, and northern Uganda. Dr. Cathy Hewison, MSF's meningitis specialist, answers questions about the risk of wide-scale epidemic this year and the limited availability of vaccines.
Read more.


Consensus reached to complete polio eradication

28 February 2007 -- Governments, donors and international agencies have agreed to fully support the planned final attack on poliovirus. Indigenous wild poliovirus survives in only parts of four countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The goal is to raise within 12 months the vaccination coverage and child immunity to such levels that stopped the disease altogether in the polio-free parts of these countries.
Read more.

Neurological disorders affect millions: WHO report

27 February 2007 -- A new report from WHO shows that neurological disorders, ranging from epilepsy to Alzheimer disease, from stroke to headache, affect up to one billion people worldwide. Neurological disorders also include brain injuries, neuroinfections, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson disease.
Read more.

Child with malaria in Malawi, Africa.

Photo credit: World Health Organization. With thanks.


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