- Yet another medicine to combat malaria, which kills over two million people each year, half of whom are children, is put to the market. The drug complies with the most recent WHO recommendations, is technically innovative, patent-free, cheap and fit for children.
The producer promises quite a lot of virtues. ASAQ - the name of this fixed combination of artesunate and amodiaquine - is the result of an original form of cooperation between the public and private sectors.
Sold according to the principle of "no-profit-no-loss", the new drug will cost less than one US dollar per full treatment of three days for an adult, minus 50 cents for a child. Speaking of children - for the first time an anti-malaria drug is offered automatically for adults and in a different form for specific paediatric use.
This product, sold at a low price, is also patent-free. Anyone who wants to can copy it, thus producing even cheaper generics in for example Africa.
Of the 41 African countries which recommend Artemisinin Combination Therapies (ACT), which is also promoted by the World Health Organisation (WHO), about twenty have chosen artesunate-amodiaquine (ASAQ) as a first-line treatment. Thus opportunities are opening up for this new formulation.
It will be produced in Morocco in a factory working to the highest modern standards, and will be exported from this summer. The cards are on the table: the intention is to make ASAQ a major drug, evaluated, tested and produced according to cutting-edge standards, but yet accessible to all - an elegant way of allowing southern countries to circumvent the lack of goodwill by certain governments and giants in the industry.
Even though the fourth biggest pharmaceutical company in the world - the French company Sanofi Aventis - is involved in this venture, ASAQ has broken away from the traditions of the "Big Pharma" companies.
It is the result of cooperation between this company and the international initiative, DNDI (Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative). This initiative is led by the Oswaldo Cruz/Farmaguinhos Foundation (Brazil), the Indian Council for Medical Research, the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the Malay government.
Those are the developing countries involved. The other side comprises, in France, the Institut Pasteur and the NGO Médecins sans Frontičres (MSF), with all the partners benefiting from support under the Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and the WHO.
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