A new drug, Ganaplacide can clear malaria infection including strains that are resistant to the currently commonly used Artemisinin- based Therapies -ACTs, a new study done in seven malaria endemic countries including Uganda has shown.
According to a statement by Novartis, a Swiss pharmaceutical company that manufactures the widely used antimalarial drug Coartem, the new drug which was given to phase two study participants in Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Uganda and India is planned to be used as a once daily dose.
The study was conducted in two parts enrolling more than 500 patients with acute uncomplicated malaria due to Plasmodium falciparum infection. After successful evaluation of the treatment in 349 patients older than 12 years in Part A of the study, Part B enrolled 175 patients under 12 years of age.
In all studies they compared outcomes of the drug against the widely used combinations as the study control arm.
In children with acute uncomplicated malaria, response to treatment with Ganaplacide was similar to the rate observed in patients who received artemether-lumefantrine control therapy where more than 80% effectiveness was recorded.
Ganaplacide also demonstrated similar median parasite-clearing times compared to the control therapy and the solid dispersion formulation was also generally well tolerated in the children.
“The world needs a diversified pipeline of anti-malarial medicines, especially as we are faced with emerging resistance to current treatments,” said Sujata Vaidyanathan, Head Global Health Development Unit, Novartis said in a statement accompanying the results.
“These results are definitely good news, but much more work remains. In a world where a child dies of malaria every two minutes we must continue to accelerate the progress in the development of new tools to save lives.”
However, these results come shortly after a recent publication of a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found decreased sensitivity to artemisinin in Uganda, a year after the publication of similar research in Rwanda.
These ACTs were first introduced in 1999 when drugs like quinine and chloroquine which were on the government’s antimalarial drug policy had started not only being ineffective in treating the disease but also had a host of side effects such as hearing loss and body itching among others.
Now, experts say with recent research pointing to resistance to the ACTs, there’s an increasingly urgent need to develop a new non-artemisinin class of anti-malarials to avoid a return to the high levels of childhood mortality last seen in the 1990s where prevalence rates for Uganda were in the highs of 40%. Currently malaria prevalence rate is estimated at 9%.