Govt adopts new malaria medicine, drops quinine
Posted Sunday, June 17 2012 at 00:00
Better drug. About 25,000 lives would be saved every year if the medicine is put to full use across the country
The Ministry of Health has adopted artesunate injectable medicine as a first choice drug for severe malaria both in children and adults replacing quinine which has been widely used for the last 15 years.
The China-made drug recommended by the World Health Organisation is said to be reliably and rapidly absorbed into the body within five minutes compared to quinine which takes more than 30 minutes.
The decision to adopt the new drug was adopted after studies showed a reduction of mortality and morbidity by 23 per cent in Uganda while in south east Asia it reduced mortality by 34 per cent.
One of such studies done in Uganda at Mbarara University of Science and Technology enrolled over 5,000 children aged between five and 15 showed a reduction in in-hospital mortality and incidence of severe neurological complications usually called cerebral malaria.
With instant effects
According to Dr Albert Peter Okui, the Programme manager for the Malaria Control programme in the Ministry of Health, Artesunate is much more efficacious if what the clinical trials found is anything to go by.
“Artesunate trials resulted in 35 per cent fewer deaths in adults and 23 per cent in children than quinine. If all severe malaria cases in Uganda are treated with artesunate instead of quinine, 25,000 lives would be saved per year,” Dr Okui said at a symposium on management of severe malaria in Kampala on Friday.
Dr Jane Achan, the president of the Uganda Pediatric Association, also working at department of pediatrics Makerere University, said artesunate is easier to administer and has fewer side effects compared to quinine.
“Artesunate can be administered in four minutes whereas Quinine takes four hours to administer. Artesunate is less burdensome for healthcare workers compared to quinine which has a long half-life which results in greater length of time to reach therapy dose,” she says.
Quinine is said to have many severe side effects including tinnitus, dizziness and nausea which results into poor adherence mainly by patients abandoning the dosage.
Dr Achan said quinine is also highly labour intensive due to the eight-hourly injections which requires close monitoring compared to one injection of Artesunate daily.