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Global partnership to give Africans access to cheaper malaria drugs

Latest update : 2009-04-17

Africans will be able to buy more effective and affordable malaria drugs at their local pharmacies, under an international partnership launched in Norway. Malaria strikes about 250 million people a year, one million of whom die.

AFP - More effective drugs to treat malaria are set to be cheaper for Africans to buy at their local pharmacies, under an international partnership launched Friday at a meeting in Norway.

The Affordable Medicines Facility aims to push down the cost of modern malaria drugs in order to drive older, ineffective medications off the market, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria said.

"The age when the world had effective drugs against infectious diseases but let millions die each year because they couldn't afford them is over," said Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere in a statement.

The facility will initially be offered to 10 nations in Africa -- Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda -- as well as Cambodia.

Sharing the initial cost of 225 million dollars (172 million euros) over two years will be Britain and UNITAID, an international drug-buying facility created by France and supported by 27 other nations.

The Global Fund will manage the facility.

Spread by mosquitos in tropical regions, and most notably in poorer developing countries, malaria strikes about 250 million people a year -- one million of whom die, 90 percent of them children.

New drugs, known as artemisinin combination therapies, or ACTs, are available for free in public health clinics, the Global Fund said.

But because they are up to 40 times more expensive over the counter, many malaria sufferers opt for cheaper, older medicines that the malaria parasite has, over time, grown resistant to.

Unitaid said the current price of ACT treatment ranges from six to 10 dollars down to less than 20 cents.

"There is no reason any child should die of malaria anymore," said Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund.

"We have insecticide-impregnated bed nets to protect families from mosquitos and effective drugs to treat those who do fall ill. Now we only need to ensure that all who need these things get them."

Unitaid president Philippe Douste-Blazy called for an end to what he called the paradox of an African child dying every 30 seconds from malaria when effective medication exists to counter the illness.

Reversing the incidence of malaria and HIV-AIDS is among the Millenium Development Goals set out by the United Nations in 2000 which notably aim to reduce extreme poverty by half by 2015.

Date created : 2009-04-17