Unique collaboration launches a new malaria medicine to save millions of children

MMV and Novartis launch Coartem® Dispersible

27 Jan 2009

Medicines for Malaria Venture and Novartis launch the first pediatric malaria cure that is dispersible, sweet-tasting and approved by a stringent regulatory authority. Coartem® Dispersible was developed to meet a critical medical need. With the launch of this new child-friendly medicine MMV and Novartis have demonstrated the power of partnership.



Geneva, 27 January 2009 - The Swiss not-for-profit organization, Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) together with Novartis today announced the launch of Coartem® Dispersible - a new child friendly antimalarial medicine which has been clinically proven to be effective in curing malaria in children. Designed especially for children, this is the first pediatric malaria cure that is dispersible, sweet-tasting and which has stringent regulatory approval.

"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, CEO of MMV. "Without the support of some of the largest public and private investors in the world, we could not have delivered this malaria medicine for children".

To support this project and the largest malaria R&D pipeline in history, MMV receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Irish Aid, Netherlands Minister Development Co-Operation, Rockefeller Foundation, Spanish Government, Swiss Government, UK DFID, USAID, US National Institute of Health, Wellcome Trust, WHO/RBM and World Bank and the ExxonMobil Foundation.

Coartem Dispersible is a sweet-tasting child-friendly fixed-dose formulation that disperses easily. A phase III study recently published in The Lancet showed that Coartem Dispersible provides a high cure rate [1]. of 97.8%, which is comparable to that of Coartem (98.5%). Investigators also reported that it had a good safety profile [2].

"Africa bears the overwhelming burden of malaria. We are losing our children — and therefore our future — to this disease. Now we have a life-saving, dispersible antimalarial drug made specifically for children. This represents a major advance towards our target of achieving universal coverage with treatment by 2010," said Prof Awa Marie Coll-Seck, Executive Director, Roll Back Malaria Partnership.

In addition to approval by Swissmedic, Switzerland’s regulatory authority, Coartem Dispersible has also been approved in 14 countries in Africa including Benin, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo and Zambia. The medicine will be provided at cost to the public sector in malaria-endemic countries.

Malaria is both preventable and curable. A child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. More than one million people die of malaria every year, mostly infants, young children and pregnant women and most of them in Africa. Malaria does not only kill, it debilitates. It is the cause of nearly 20% of low-birth weight babies in malaria-endemic regions. Infants born to mothers with malaria are more likely to have low birth weight - widely held to be the single greatest risk factor for death during the first month of life. Severe malaria often leads to cerebral damage, holding back a child’s mental development. Malaria also contributes heavily to malnutrition, an underlying cause in more than half of all deaths in children under five.

About Coartem® Dispersible

Coartem Dispersible is a unique, child-friendly, sweet-tasting, dispersible formulation of the parent drug Coartem®, containing artemether and lumefantrine. Artemisinin is a compound derived from the sweet wormwood plant and has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fever. An ACT is a combination of two or more drugs (one of which is an artemisinin derivative) that have different modes of action. Studies have shown that using two or more drugs in combination has the potential to delay the development of resistance. ACTs in particular have been found to be highly effective in treating malaria and their potential to delay resistance in areas of intense transmission is under investigation.

Artemether is a compound derived from the sweet wormwood plant and has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat fever. An ACT is a combination of two or more drugs (one of which is an artemisinin derivative) that have different modes of action. Studies have shown that using two or more drugs in combination has the potential to delay the development of resistance. ACTs in particular have been found to be highly effective in treating malaria and their potential to delay resistance in areas of intense transmission is under investigation.

About Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV)

About Novartis

Novartis AG provides healthcare solutions that address the evolving needs of patients and societies. Focused solely on healthcare, Novartis offers a diversified portfolio to best meet these needs: innovative medicines, cost-saving generic pharmaceuticals, preventive vaccines, diagnostic tools and consumer health products. Novartis is the only company with leading positions in these areas. In 2007, the Group’s continuing operations (excluding divestments in 2007) achieved net sales of USD 38.1 billion and net income of USD 6.5 billion. Approximately USD 6.4 billion was invested in R&D activities throughout the Group. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ approximately 97,000 full-time associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. www.novartis.com

For more information contact:

Jaya Banerji, MMV


[1] Cure rates in the study were PCR-corrected in the mITT population

[2] Abdulla S. et al. Efficacy and safety of arthemeter-lumefantrine dispersible tablets compared with crushed commercial tablets in African infants and children with uncomplicated malaria: a randomised, single blind, multicentre trial. Lancet . Published on line