UNbacked initiative will get powerful malaria drugs to the poor

“There is no reason any child should die of malaria anymore,” said Michel Kazatchkine, Executive Director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is managing the new $225 million partnership to reduce the price of the drugs.“We have insecticide-impregnated bed nets to protect families from mosquitoes and effective drugs to treat those who do fall ill. Now we only need to ensure that all who need these things get them,” he added The combination of bed nets and drugs that cure malaria quickly has reduced malaria deaths by between 50 per cent and 90 per cent in areas where both are widely available, according to the Fund. Malaria is a potentially deadly disease that is transmitted through mosquito bites and kills more than 2,000 children every day. Children make up nearly 90 per cent of the nearly 1 million people who die from malaria every year, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia. The new drugs, known as “artemisinin combination therapies” or ACTs, are currently 10 – 40 times more expensive when sold over the counter than the old drugs which have lost their effectiveness because the malaria parasite has developed resistance to them. As a result of the high cost, many still buy these cheaper less effective drugs and currently, only one in every five patients treated for malaria has access to ACTs, the Fund said.The new initiative, known as the Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria, will reduce the price of effective malaria drugs so they can drive older, ineffective drugs out of the market. The initiative was developed through Roll-Back Malaria – a broad partnership of public and private institutions that includes the Global Fund along with the World Bank, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Dutch Government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation. The initial costs of $225-233 million for medicines in the first two years will be shared by the Government of the United Kingdom and UNITAID, an international mechanism to finance quality-assured medicines and diagnostics against HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, created by France and supported by Norway and 26 other nations. Several other organizations and Governments have indicated willingness to contribute additional funding to the initiative, the Fund said. 17 April 2009Anti-malaria drugs much more powerful than previous versions will be put within reach of millions more people in Africa and Asia due to an initiative launched today by the United Nations-backed fund that fights major epidemics.

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