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Case study: Malaria & ACT

While malaria has been virtually eliminated in the developed world, the disease is still present in over 100 countries, threatening 40% of the world’s population.

Submitted 10/20/2006 By Josie Views 12470 Comments 0 Updated 10/21/2006

Who does malaria affect?

While malaria has been virtually eliminated in the developed world, the disease is still present in over 100 countries, threatening 40% of the world’s population. Each year there are 300–500 million new cases and 1–2 million deaths from malaria. Over 90% of cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Since the early 1980s, an estimated 40 million people worldwide, most of them children under five, have died of malaria. Those who survive multiple bouts of malaria can experience retarded physical and mental development, poor educational performance and greater vulnerability to other diseases.

What is artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT)?

Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is used to treat malaria. Antimalarial drugs are often solely administered but the World Health Organization (WHO) now strongly recommends switching protocols to include an artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). These drug combinations are more effective, allow for shorter treatment courses, and protect against drug resistance.

What are the challenges to treating malaria?

The developing world is currently undergoing a crisis in malaria medicines. The rapid development of drug resistance has made many existing medicines ineffective. At the same time, some of the newer medicines have severe side-effects, and most are much more expensive than older treatments, often putting them beyond the reach of patients.

The lack of new treatments is a direct result of insufficient research being carried out. Although there are million of people affected, most of them are poor people living in poor countries, and so do not represent a profitable market for pharmaceutical companies.

The result is that malaria in developing countries is often treated with drugs that are no longer effective, and people with resistant malaria cannot access the treatment that could save their lives.

How do I know this?

Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), http://www.mmv.org/article.php3?id_article=27

MSF Access Campaign, http://www.accessmed-msf.org/index.asp

MSF Australia, http://www.msf.org.au/

MSF-US, http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/news/malaria/...

MSF-US 2006, Malaria Still Kills Needlessly In Africa; Effective Drugs Not Reaching Patients, 21 April, http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/pr/2006/04-21...

Warpinski, A., 2002, 'The Good Medicine: Why are millions of malaria victims in Africa going without a treatment that works?', MSF International Activity Report 2002