- Experts Meet To Discuss New Malaria Drugs Close Window Public health experts are meeting in New York today to discuss expanding access in developing nations toMessage 1 of 1 , May 4, 2004View Source
Experts Meet To Discuss New Malaria Drugs Close Window
Public health experts are meeting in New York today to discuss expanding access in developing nations to artemisinin-combination therapy (ACT), which offers one of the fastest and most effective cures for malaria, USA Today reports.
Malaria parasites have become resistant to older drugs, but funding for the newer ACT remains a problem. ACT costs about $1.50 for a three-day course, compared with 10 cents for older drugs such as chloroquine and Fansidar.
Many African governments can devote just $5 per person annually to public health.
"There's no denying that this will cost more, probably a lot more," said Ron Waldman of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, which is sponsoring the meeting along with the World Health Organization, UNICEF and Medecins Sans Frontieres. "But people now are spending a lot of money on treatments that don't work."
WHO puts the cost of treating everyone in sub-Saharan Africa annually at $1 billion for malaria drugs alone.
The WHO's global malaria eradication effort made great strides beginning in the 1950s, succeeding in wiping out the disease in the United States and Europe. Surging drug resistance and the phaseout of the pesticide DDT have contributed to malaria's resurgence in parts of Africa, however.
Four times as many cases have been reported over the past two decades as in the previous 20 years, USA Today said, and between 300 million and 500 million cases are recorded each year, 90 percent of them in Africa.
ACT is widely believed to offer a better alternative. The best evidence of its success, according to the paper, is in South Africa's KwaZulu Natal province, which has seen a 77 percent drop in malaria cases and a nearly 90 percent decline in deaths since ACT was introduced there in 2001 (Steve Sternberg, USA Today, April 29).
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