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Last Updated : Jul 23, 2018 03:53 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Global standoff against malaria intensifies with GSK's new 'cure'

British drug maker GlaxoSmithKline will be aided by the World Health Organisation, the UK government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to eradicate the disease

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The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the US has given its approval for the first pill, in almost 60 years, that claims to treat malaria.

According to a report by BBC, the new drug is tafenoquine and it is being manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) under the commercial name - Krintafel. It specifically targets a form of recurring malaria caused by the parasite plasmodium vivax - which makes at least 8.5 million people ill annually across South America and southeast Asia.

The FDA confirmed that the drug is effective but could come with significant side effects; people with a particular enzyme deficiency (G6PD) can land up with severe anaemia if they take the drug.

The regulator also advises people with psychiatric illnesses to not take high doses of the drug as it could adversely impact their health.

Plasmodium vivax  is particularly difficult to eradicate because it can lie dormant in the liver for years before reawakening.

Professor Ric Price from Oxford university said that tafenoquine is a 'phenomenal achievement' as it can get rid of the parasite in the liver with a single dose.

Meanwhile, president of research and development at GSK Dr Hal Barron echoed professor Price's sentiments and confirmed that this was the first new treatment for plasmodium vivax in more than 60 years.

However, early testing indicates it's not very effective and prevention, at present, focuses on using insecticides and bed nets.

At present, the four major drug classes used to treat malaria include quinoline-related compounds, antifolates, artemisinin derivatives, and antimicrobials. The best form of treatment currently is to use a combination of these drug classes.

The UK government, for the next three years, has said it will infuse GBP 500 million per year to help fight malaria. Additionally, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will extend its investments in curing malaria by an additional USD 1 billion (GBP 700 million) through to 2023.

According to the World Malaria Report 2017, there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria worldwide at the end 2016 while deaths reached 445 000.
First Published on Jul 23, 2018 03:53 pm
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