MMV explains need for new medicines to counter resistance if we are to achieve near-zero deaths by 2015.
MMV's David Reddy joined Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director of RBM, and Pascal Ringwald, Medical Director at the Global Malaria Program, at a press briefing today to mark World Malaria Day.
Dr Coll-Seck provided an overview of achievements since 1998 in the field of malaria control. Huge progress had been made in terms of bed net coverage, use of indoor spraying, distribution of treatments, and political support to control and finally defeat malaria. However, many challenges lie ahead if the goal to achieve near zero deaths by 2015 is to be achieved. These include, first and foremost, sustained and generous financing, accountability and good governance, as well as increased bed net coverage, improved distribution of effective antimalarials like ACTs, more research and development of new tools, and containing artemisinin resistance to S.E.Asia to try and ensure it does not spread.
Dr Ringwald reiterated the urgent need to contain resistance. He explained that prevention efforts since 2006 have saved over 750,000 lives but the emergence of artemisinin resistance at the Thai-Cambodian border has raised, once again, the immediacy of the need for new medicines. The WHO’s response has been to collaborate with partners to develop GPARC (the Global Plan for Artemisinin Resistance Containment). GPARC aims to protect the ACT class of drugs by decreasing the use of oral artemisinin monotherapies, reduce malaria transmission, improve monitoring and surveillance, improve distribution of ACTs and support the development of new medicines.
Given the emphasis placed by both previous speakers on the need for new medicines to counter resistance, Dr Reddy gave a brief overview of product development partnerships and the reason they exist – to fill the gap caused by market failure in the field of neglected diseases. He spoke of the need to use ACTs instead of monotherapies, as recommended by the WHO, as combinations are more effective against the malaria parasite and can stall resistance. He also mentioned MMV’s first drug, a paediatric ACT developed with Novartis, 64 million treatments of which have been distributed to 35 countries in the 2 years since its launch. He lauded the work led by the WHO to contain artemisinin resistance, explaining that MMV’s pipeline of antimalarial drugs contained projects that could be developed into suitable alternatives to artemisinin in the event that resistance does occur.
In the area of access, MMV is very active, believing that medicines are only as good as the number of people they treat and cure. Dr Reddy mentioned the "SMS for Life" project being rolled out nationally in Tanzania after a successful pilot last year where mobile technology was used to track the stock levels of antimalarial drugs at health facilities to manage the supply of these essential treatments.
Finally, he highlighted MMV’s recent achievement of working with Guilin Pharmaceutical to bring the manufacture of injectable artesunate to WHO standards, leading to its approval by the WHO Prequalification Programme. MSF too is calling for the use of artesunate for injection for the treatment of severe malaria patients, as it has been shown to achieve greater reductions in malaria mortality in comparison to quinine. And WHO’s treatment guidelines for severe malaria have recently been revised to strongly recommend injectable artesunate over quinine for both adults and children. The WHO prequalification status of artesunate for injection will now make this life-saving drug accessible to all countries wishing to procure it with donor funds.