How to battle malaria: Africans not getting the best medication.

Author:Aharon, Sam
Position:THIS MONTH'S PRIZE LETTER - Letter to the editor
 
FREE EXCERPT

Malaria continues to be a huge problem for most of Africa leading, tragically, to many unnecessary deaths as well as impacting the continent's productive output when workers fall ill. Yet malaria is largely a preventable and treatable disease, and just as the distribution of bed nets has had a real impact on the number of cases of this disease, so have new medicines for its treatment have shown real promise. Yet, remarkably, the roll out of new effective drugs has been painfully slow. In particular, the use of Arteminisin-Combination Therapy (ACT) has been delayed even though ACT is a much more efficient drug than those currently in use across Africa.

As well as being a much faster acting drug than the older drugs like chloroquine, they work better because the malaria parasite has not built up resistance to their action.

The problem is that although ACTs are now widely accepted to be the best anti-malarial drugs available, they are not getting to those Africans that need them most because of bureaucratic bottlenecks.

Dr Prudence Hamade, a malaria expert at Medecins Sans Frontieres, has said that "almost all the global players involved in tackling malaria have made firm commitments to ACTs on paper and the World Health Organisation has officially recommended that countries switch to using ACTs as soon as older malaria drugs fail to work well".

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