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Artesumate better than Quinine in reducing the risk of death by malaria

A trial in malaria patients from four countries has shown a clear benefit of a drug derived from an ancient Chinese herb over standard treatment with Quinine.

Quinine has been the standard drug for the treatment of severe malaria in most countries.
This new trial clearly shows that Artesunate, derived from sweet wormwood, or Artemisia annua, has fewer side effects and is more effective than Quinine in preventing death in adults with severe malaria.

In total, 1461 patients with severe malaria were treated with either Quinine or Artesunate. Of these, 20% were enrolled at the Indonesian Ministry of Health/Menzies field site in Papua province.

There were a third fewer deaths among those receiving Artesunate: 15% of seriously ill patients died compared to 22% of those treated with Quinine.

" Falciparum malaria, the most severe form of the infection, is a major cause of death. At least 120 million cases of falciparum malaria occur in South East Asia each year," Nicholas Anstey of the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin, Australia, said.

"This is the first time that any drug has been demonstrated to be better than quinine at saving lives since the latter was first introduced into Europe nearly 400 years ago."

As a result of this study the Indonesian Ministry of Health has already decided to change national drug policy for treatment of severe malaria from Quinine to Artesunate.

Source: The Lancet, 2005