Three tablets in three days can cure the chill-n-kill disease
The first indigenously made anti-malarial drug made its debut on Wednesday, arming doctors with one more weapon to fight the disease that kills thousands of Indians every year.
Developed by Ranbaxy Laboratories with funding support from the department of science and technology, the novel drug completed clinical trials under the supervision of National Institute on Malaria Research — a constituent laboratory of Indian Council of Medical Research. After reviewing the data, the Drugs Controller General of India gave the marketing approval in 2011.
Effective against malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum parasite, its dosage regimen is one tablet a day for three days, costing Rs 130 a pack. It is not clear if the new drug will find a place in the public health programme.
The new drug is different from Artemisinin Combination Therapy (ACT), used worldwide as preferred treatment based on World Health Organisation recommendations.
“It is the first anti-malarial drug developed in India which has entered the market unlike other molecules which did not,” said T S Balganesh, a distinguished scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in charge of Open Source Drug Discovery programme, but not linked to Ranbaxy’s research work.
“The new drug is a fixed dose consisting of arterolane maleate and piperaquine phosphate, in line with WHO recommendations. It is among the best options available today,” said Sudershan Arora, president (Research and Development) at Ranbaxy.
“Malaria is highly endemic in 17 states and mostly affects the poor. The company should see the drug is affordable and accessible drug so that poor people can buy it,” Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said during its launch.
The ACT based drugs used in the national malaria control programme cost Rs 20 for an adult for a three-day regimen and half of that for children, an official from National Vector Borne Disease Control programme told Deccan Herald.
Low death count
Following questions being raised on India’s abysmally low official malaria death count, the centre set up an expert panel to review the figure. Preliminary estimates indicate that every year 35,000-40,000 adult Indians die of malaria, Azad said.
According to an estimate by public health researchers from India and Canada, malaria killed 2,05,000 people every year in India, of whom1,20,000 are in the age group of 15-69 years and more than 80,000 children.
A second study suggests that the number of annual malaria deaths in India was 1.57 lakh in 1980, which was reduced to 1.12 lakh in 2000 and 46,000 in 2010.
Besides medicine, Azad said, manpower too was important in malaria control as most states had withdrawn malaria supervisor in block and village health centres.