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New single dose drug to fight malaria

Health & Science

By Elizabeth Mwai

A new anti-malaria medicine has been introduced in the Kenyan market to combat the killer disease.

The drug from China, which is a combination of anti-malarials, is taken once, and is a major step in rolling back the disease that kills 16,000 children annually.

Known as ARCO tablet, it is the newest generation Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT) anti-malarials.

"A dose comprises eight tablets, as opposed to other ACT drugs which require a patient to take 24 tablets for three days," says Medisel Kenya’s Head of Product Management Department Jignesh Sanghavi.

China’s Kunming Pharmaceutical Corp (KPC), the producer of ARCO, has partnered with a local pharmaceutical company, Medisel Kenya to distribute the drug.

This comes as the Ministry of Public Health reveals that there are some people who do not complete malaria treatment.

"Studies show that as long as people are told what to do, they follow instructions but some never finish the dose regardless," says Dr Elizabeth Juma, the Head of Malaria Division in the Public Health Ministry.

She encourages patients to complete the dosage prescribed so that the parasite does not develop resistance to the drug.

The malaria expert said since adopting ACT four years ago, no cases of drug resistance have decreased.

Mopping up

ACT combines more than one drug to reduce risk of resistance.

This is why the Government is mopping up monotherapies in the market, says Juma.

She says the country is following the World Health Organisation guidelines on malaria drugs. The organisation makes recommendations based on availability, experience in other countries, and cost of a drug.

Juma cautions that pregnant women should not use ACT for prevention of malaria and should continue using sulphur based drugs.

Mr Sanghavi says the new drug can be used in the second and third trimester of pregnancy. The drug can also be taken by children, who weigh at least 7kg.

Oral dose

The tablet was first launched in 2004 in China.

Eleven clinical studies involving adult and children patients were conducted in Africa and Asian countries.

The tablet treats all forms of malaria, including multi-drug resistant malaria.

The drug is composed of a gram of Artemisinin and new molecule Naphthoquine phosphate, which is a new antimalaria substance, which has not been used as a single agent for treatment.

"It means no resistance to this chemicals has developed yet," says Sanghavi.

He explains that Artemisinin immediately starts the anti-malarial action by rapidly killing all the malaria causing parasites in the body within 24 hours.

Napthoquine, which stays in the body longer starts its own antimalarial action by 72 hours, and clears any remaining parasites and continues its action for more than 10 days. Studies have shown that the plasmodium parasite has developed different levels of resistance to commonly used antimalarial drugs except Artemisinin.

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