WHO Prequalifies 5 Anti-Malaria Drugs Made in China

World Health Organization (WHO) representative Michael O’Leary has announced that China now has five anti-malaria drugs that have met WHO standards for prequalification.

China Daily reports that a study released in January 2012 by the Wellcome Trust cites Chinese manufacturers as a major source of counterfeit anti-malaria drugs in Asia and Africa.  

Head researcher Dr. Paul Newton from the Wellcome Trust-Mahosot Hospital-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Collaboration in Laos explained the relationship between the spread of malaria and counterfeit drugs

“Public health organisations must take urgent, coordinated action to prevent the circulation of counterfeit and substandard medicines and improve the quality of the medicines that patients receive. We must move finally away from the use of single drugs and towards the exclusive use of combination therapies.

“The enormous investment in the development, evaluation and deployment of antimalarials is wasted if the medicines that patients actually take are, due to criminality or carelessness, of poor quality and do not cure. Malaria can be readily treated with the right drugs of good quality, but poor-quality medicines – as well as increasing mortality and morbidity – risk exacerbating the economic and social impact of malaria on societies that are already poor.

“Worse still, they encourage drug resistance, potentially resulting in the failure of artemisinin treatments, with profound consequences for public health in Africa. Failure to take action will put at risk the lives of millions of people, particularly children and pregnant women.”

China’s efforts to become prequalified and meet stringent World Health Organization standards for anti-malarial drugs, the most potent of which are combination therapies that include artemsininen, a native Chinese plant known in Chinese as Qinghaosu, are seen by officials as a step towards fighting malaria.  Prequalificaton requires medicine manufacturers to meet stringent global standards of production, safety testing and quality control.  

Said O’Leary, “China is a very important manufacturer of quality anti-malarial medicines and plays a substantial role to secure safe and quality drug provision in Africa. We’re happy to see China take the initiative to [pre-qualify] and these pre-qualified medicines made in China are fully strong and effective ones.”

By S. Imber