16 February 2009

Malaria med for kids

A groundbreaking malaria medicine formulated especially for kids was launched in Dar es Salaam today.

A groundbreaking malaria medicine formulated especially for kids was launched in Dar es Salaam today by Novartis and Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV).

The new medicine, called Coartem Dispersible, is a cherry flavoured version of Novartis's widely used artemisinin-based combination therapy Coartem.

"Until now, many healthcare workers and parents have had to crush bitter-tasting antimalarial tablets for their children to swallow. Coartem Dispersible tablets enable parents to give the sweet-tasting malaria medicine to their children more easily and, in the process, ensure they receive full effective doses", Novartis and MMV said in a press release.

"Getting babies to take bitter malaria medicines is always difficult, but now mothers in Africa can easily give their children a sweet tasting and effective cure which will save their lives," said Dr Chris Hentschel, President and CEO of MMV. "This could not have happened without the support of our funders who are all committed to malaria innovation and one day, eliminating this deadly disease."

Public private collaboration
The new drug is the result of a public-private collaboration between Novartis and MMV. MMV is a nonprofit that receives funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and a variety of other donors.

Traditionally the development of medicines for tropical diseases, and especially medicines formulated for use by children, has taken a backseat to the search for blockbuster drugs for first world health concerns such as heart disease and hypertension.

Positive findings
A clinical study reported in The Lancet by Dr Salim Abdulla of the Ifakara Health Institute in Tanzania showed that Coartem Dispersible provides a cure rate of 97.8%, which is comparable to that of Coartem (98.5%).

"This new Coartem Dispersible tablet can help improve treatment and compliance saving many of the more than 700 000 children under five who die each year from malaria," said Dr Daniel Vasella, chairman and CEO of Novartis. "I am pleased that we can provide a clearly better formulation to help ensure children with malaria receive, and can take, an effective therapy."

Nine out of 10 malaria deaths occur in sub-saharan Africa, and the vast majority of malaria-related deaths occur in children. Across Africa, a child dies every 30 seconds from malaria.

Like Coartem, Coartem Dispersible will be provided to the public sector at cost price.

(Health24, February 2009)


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