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Tuesday 19th June 2018

Nigeria defends malaria drug quality

12th October 2010

Health officials in Nigeria say concerns that many antimalarial drugs in Nigeria are ineffective are largely unfounded.


Concerns have surfaced among Nigerians in recent months that current malaria drugs are not working, amid fears that substandard production may be affecting treatments.

Health officials started an efficacy trial last year of two different combination therapies for malaria.

The trial tested the efficacy of artemether and lumefantrine, and that of artesunate and amodiaquine combinations in seven different locations around the country.

While preliminary results were still being validated, officials at Nigeria's malaria control programme say they are confident that current treatments are up to the job.

Babajide Coker, head of Nigeria's malaria control programme, said drugs from the government stores had been shown in the trial to be efficacious.

But Philips Agomo, a malaria researcher at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research, said some failures were observed.

Agomo said some of the treatment failures could be attributed to re-infection with the parasite halfway through a course of treatment.

Some parents have complained that artemether–lumefantrine had failed to alleviate symptoms in their children.

Nigerian World Bank malaria programme chief Samuel Oyeniyi blamed the widespread sale of fake malaria drugs in the country's open-air markets.

He warned against purchasing malaria drugs from regular markets.

The trial only included malaria drugs registered by the Nigeria's National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, which effectively excluded fake medication.

WHO medicine quality and safety head Lembit Rägo said the government had taken action against counterfeit medicines in the past.

But he added that there was still room for improvement in Nigeria's quality control regime for pharmaceuticals.

For example, some substandard drugs are legally produced, but do not meet quality specifications.

He said the public in some of the world's poorest countries still tended to believe that the more expensive, brand-name drugs were the only effective ones, and mistrusted locally produced generic drugs.

However, a recent WHO study on the quality of antimalarials in 10 sub-Saharan African countries showed that nearly 40% of drugs that had gone unchecked by the WHO at the production stage, underperformed in tests.

Rägo said that the recent government trial might have used "different sampling methods".

Or, he said, local manufacturers might have raised their game in the wake of the WHO study.

He said any improvements in quality needed to be sustainable in the long term, however.

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