A six-dose course of the combination of two drugs - artemether and lumefantrine (coartum or Riamet)- is a highly effective treatment for malaria in the areas of Africa where resistance to frequently used malaria drugs is common, according to two randomised controlled studies published in the April 22nd issue of The Lancet.
After years of hesitation, world health agencies are racing to acquire 100 million doses of a Chinese herbal drug that has proved strikingly effective against malaria, one of the leading killers of the poor.
A new drug, Coartemether, partly derived from a herb used to treat malaria in the Far East for almost 2 000 years, has been officially launched in South Africa. Coartemether contains two active ingredients, artemether and lumefantrine, which target the malaria parasite at different stages in its lifecycle. Artemether is derived from a herb that has been used in the Far East for the past 1700 years for the treatment of malaria and fever. So far, no emergence of clinical resistance to Coartemether or either of its main ingredients has been observed. In comparative clinical trials, Coartemether cleared the parasites causing malaria in less than 48 hours. A course costs between R92 (children) and R160 (adults). According to the World Health Organisation, malaria now kills 3 000 people a day, mostly in Africa. In South Africa, 25 337 cases were reported last year, with 80 people dying. In the previous year, more than 60 000 cases were reported and 463 people died. In 1998, the World Health Organisation launched a new anti-malaria campaign to deal with the crisis. (Source: The Star, 5 February 2002)