Chinese malarial drug manufacturer calls for WHO’s recognition

One of the biggest threats to human health, especially in African countries is malaria.In these countries, including Ghana, governments are implementing a number of interventions to reduce deaths from malaria.

These include the promotion of the use of bed nets, indoor residual spraying, prevention of malaria in pregnancy and treatment with Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACTs).

Notwithstanding these efforts, malaria continues to kill people every year.

Treatments containing an artemisinin derivative (artemisinin-combination therapies, (ACTs) are now standard treatment worldwide for malaria.

Artemisinin is extracted from the plant Artemisia annua, sweet wormwood, a herb employed in Chinese traditional medicine. It can  also be produced using genetically engineered yeast.

  Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine
Dr Li Guoqiao is one of the researchers who has turned a Chinese herbal treatment for the disease into artemisinin, one of the most effective antimalarial drugs yet invented. 

Nine senior African journalists who visited the university recently were briefed on the new malarial drug helping some countries to effectively combat malaria.

The drug in question is made from the combination of artemisinin and a second antimalarial drug called piperaquine, and sold under the brand name “Artequick” by Artepharm, a firm based in Guangdong which Dr Li helped to found.

Dr Li is using the drug to promote a new strategy of malaria control dubbed: Fast Elimination of Malaria by Source Eradication (FEMSE).

Briefing the journalists about the drug, the General Manager of Artepharm Company Limited, Mr Pan Longhua, said results of multi-centre clinical trials in China, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and the Comoros showed that Antequick controlled the malaria symptoms rapidly.

By using the drug, Fever Clearance Time (FCT) and Parasite Clearance Time  (PCT) are 16-30 hours and 36-60 hours respectively.

According to him, the clinical trials showed that Artequick caused much fewer clinical side effects than any other artemisinin combinations.

“Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, abdominal pains and diarrhoea are self-limited and only occur in less than three per cent patients”, he said.

  Seeking WHO listing
Mr Pan explained even further that though the company had sought Artequick to be listed among the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved drugs for the treatment of malaria, it had not been successful.

“Even though the drug is very effective, it is expensive as compared to other WHO approved drugs for the treatment of malaria,” he stated, explaining that the WHO bought listed malaria drugs and donated them to the various countries.

He said about 15 countries had registered the drug and it could be purchased from the pharmaceutical outlets in those countries.

Asked why the WHO had refused to give approval to the drug, Mr Pan explained that the organisation had refused to recognise the drug since it took only two days for its administration as against the WHO approved drugs that took three days to administer.

“We are now competing with subsidised drugs. It is unfortunate that patients cannot access this efficient drug for the treatment of malaria because it is expensive,” Mr Pan explained.

He added that Ghana was one of the countries that had refused to register the drug and expressed the hope that the difference between the company and WHO would be solved to enable malaria patients worldwide to have access to Artequick in the near future.

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