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AMFm Subsidized Malaria Drugs To Be Delivered Soon

Subsidized artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) under the Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria (AMFm) program will be available in select countries “in two week’s time,” SABC News reports. The announcement came Monday at the 5th Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan-African Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

SABC News writes: “According to latest research information, at least 97% of people in sub-Saharan Africa cannot afford the life saving artemisinin-based combination therapies. ACTwatch’s Desmond Chavess says as a result of lack of affordability, most children presenting malaria symptoms fail to get treatment or end up receiving ineffective drugs” (Kimani, 11/2). 

The program, announced in April, is being launched in Benin, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda, all of which applied to the program through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, New Times/allAfrica.com reports. AMFm will reduce the price of malaria drugs to 40 cents from $6 per dose, according to the article (Nambi, 11/4). The Clinton Foundation’s Oliver Sabot said AMFm is able to lower the cost of malaria drugs by through negotiations and bigger payments directly to manufacturers, SABC News writes (11/2).

Experts Discuss Traditional Medicine For Treatment Of Malaria, Barriers To Vaccine Rollout

Some experts attending the MIM conference said medicine from plants could be used to prevent malaria deaths in Africa, IRIN reports. “Speakers at the conference called on African governments to introduce educational programmes that would teach the younger generations about the traditional methods of treating malaria and other diseases plaguing the continent,” according to the news service.

“BN Prakash, a researcher with the Foundation for the Revitalization of Local Health Traditions … said Africa could draw on experiences in India where medicinal plants have been used with great success in the control of malaria-related deaths. ‘Research in India has shown a 5-10 times reduction in malaria-related deaths among communities who use traditional medicinal plants like Guduchi [tinospore coeditdia], a local medicinal plant found in India,’ said Prakash,” according to the article.

Doumbo Ogobara, director of the Mali Malaria Research and Training Centre, said, “More research must be directed towards finding out the effectiveness of these traditional medicinal plants and their safety and efficacy because initiatives on using them could be counter-productive if this is not done.”

Mahamadou Sissoko, also of the Mali Centre, noted, “People are dying even in places where there is still widespread use of traditional medicinal plants … Many traditional healers will abuse this and give anything as medicine so long as it is a plant – we must urge caution.” The article includes quotes from other specialists (11/4).

Also at the conference, Wilfred Mbachama, of the Laboratory for Public Health Biotechnology in Cameroon, said African countries don’t have the infrastructure for a malaria vaccine and he called on governments to establish structures to enable vaccine distribution, Daily Nation/allAfrica.com reports. 

“Last minute rushes may interfere with the implementation and distribution of the vaccine,” Mbachama said. He highlighted the lack of adequate storage facilities on the continent and regulatory requirements as obstacles. “The shelf life, extent of efficiency and the interaction of disease with the population has to be considered at an earlier stage,” he said. Mbachama recommended additional training for scientists to increase the continent’s research capacity (Wanja, 11/3).

PATH To Target Malaria Eradication 

This week, the PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI) discussed its goal to eradicate malaria and “the sorts of vaccine candidates it will support in the future, as well as the ways in which it will select them,” Nature News reports. “Until now, clinical efforts towards a vaccine have focused on on the individual level by reducing cases and deaths. But the MVI … will now also invest heavily in vaccines that block transmission of the malaria parasite. These vaccines provide no direct benefit to individuals but might fight the disease at the population level,” the publication writes.

MVI is aiming to have a malaria vaccine that will last for at least four years and is more than 80 percent effective by 2025. “The most effective first-generation effort in its portfolio, GlaxoSmithKline Biologicals’ RTS,S vaccine – which targets the initial infection phase in humans – falls far short of that,” according to Nature News. The duration of the vaccine’s efficacy is also unclear. “Combining RTS,S with vaccines targeted at other stages of the malaria parasite’s life cycle could produce much stronger effects. … The MVI intends to pursue only combined vaccine trials in future,” writes Nature News. According to Ashley Birkett, director of preclinical development at MVI, the RTS,S trials have raised the bar for future experimental vaccines, which will have to undergo more extensive preclinical testing.

The MVI also “intends to look at funding partnerships beyond the malaria-vaccine community,” Nature News reports. Birkett said, “Of course the malaria community will remain our core community … but there’s a lot of untapped expertise out there, including experts in HIV, influenza, cancer and biotechs who have different vaccine strategies” (Butler, 11/3).

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