MMV applauds WHO’s call to halt malaria monotherapy

Urges rapid implementation of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) and the development and deployment of next-generation antimalarials as soon as possible

23 Jan 2006

Geneva, Switzerland: The Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) applauds the World Health Organization (WHO) in calling for the urgent halt to the promotion and selling of artemisinin based monotherapies for malaria. This practice undoubtedly increases the risk of the development of resistance to the only drug class that is currently a reliable and effective cure for this deadly disease.

Loss of efficacy due to resistance is a problem for all anti-infective drugs, but the lifespan of these medicines can be substantially prolonged by combining them with at least one other effective drug. The well documented and widely recognized issue of resistance to the first generation of synthetic antimalarial drugs demonstrates this and reminds us starkly that the resulting ineffective drugs can quickly lead to a reversal in the global progress being made in combating malaria.

“In issuing these guidelines and taking the further moves to expose those companies that continue to sell artemisinin monotherapies, the WHO is taking a well judged and bold step. The lives of the millions of people in malaria endemic regions that will increasingly depend on effective artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) should not be hostage to private marketing decisions in a largely unregulated environment” said Dr. Chris Hentschel, CEO of MMV. “These new guidelines also serve as an urgent call for the development of new and better drugs. We simply should not be in a situation where we have only one line of defense against a major killer disease simply because its victims are overwhelmingly poor and marginalized.”

“Malaria drug innovation is simply playing ‘catch up’ with a strategy of combination therapy that has long been accepted for both AIDS and TB drugs. However, if natural selection of resistant malaria parasites species were the only challenge for the global health community, we would know how to prevail. Our challenge now also includes the rapid implementation of ACTs, the phasing out of monotherapies, sub-standard drugs and counterfeits, and the rapid innovation and deployment of wholly new drugs,” said Dr. Hentschel.

MMV currently has the largest-ever pipeline of antimalarial drugs in development including four new fixed-dose artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACT) and several drug discovery and development projects involving completely novel classes of drugs. All MMV’s drugs will be stringently regulated and will conform to current WHO guidelines.

In partnership with over 40 pharmaceutical and academic research organisations around the world, MMV’s goal is to develop antimalarial drugs that are not only effective but also affordable for the billions of people at risk of malaria.

See the WHO press release.