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New York Times Examines History Of Malaria Drug Artemisinin

The New York Times examines the history of the Chinese drug artemisinin, “hailed as one of the greatest advances in fighting malaria … since the discovery of quinine centuries ago,” noting the drug “is being talked about as a candidate for a Nobel Prize in Medicine.” However, “few people realize that in one of the paradoxes of history, the drug was discovered thanks to Mao Zedong, who was acting to help the North Vietnamese in their jungle war against the Americans. Or that it languished for 30 years thanks to China’s isolation and the indifference of Western donors, health agencies and drug companies,” the newspaper writes.

The article discusses the drug’s development, including controversy that arose last year when “the Lasker Award for clinical medical research was given to Dr. Tu Youyou, former chief of the Institute of Chinese Materia Medica in Beijing,” because the “Lasker committee named her ‘the discoverer of artemisinin'” (McNeil, 1/16).