What's wrong in the Mekong?
Monday, March 2, 2009
Yesterday I co-authored an article in the China Post highlighting the growth of drug resistant malaria in the Mekong delta.
This followed a WHO press release on the issue which failed to even mention the link between substandard drugs (including counterfeits) and drug resistance.
The WHO press release talks of "new evidence" it has uncovered on drug resistant malaria--yet other studies have been showing this for years.
Repeat studies in 2002 and 2004 showed the success rate of artemisinin falling from 85.7 per cent to 79.3 per cent. Many other investigations reveal shockingly high levels of substandard and counterfeit medicines in the same area.
The WHO's press release also states that the "likelihood of drug resistance is increased with the use of single-drug therapies for malaria", before boasting that its policy is to always treat with artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs).
Yet as recently as 2004 the WHO was advocating the use of chloroquine, in spite of increasing malarial resistance to that drug. Its "ACTs only" policy has only been adopted recently, following much pressure.
The WHO still seems to be lagging behind and ignoring the root causes of drug resistance.