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On The Trail Of A Cure: Reality And Rhetoric On Treating Malaria

070325_malaria1.gifNew treatments for malaria were developed in response to a resurgence of the disease in the 1990s. Since then, funding for these treatments has increased significantly through bilateral and multilateral aid, corporate and private assistance, and national government programs in malarial countries. (…). In spite of these concerns, innovator companies are pressing on with various initiatives to bring new and existing treatments into the field. Novartis is working with Medicines for Malaria Venture to develop a pediatric version of Coartem.[53] Sanofi-Aventis, a firm with a long history in antimalarial drug research and development in quinine, chloroquine and amodiaquine,[54] is working with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization on a vaccine. In April 2005, Sanofi-Aventis also signed a collaborative agreement with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative to develop a new medicine against malaria.[55] This fixed-dose combination of artesunate and amodiaquine will be easier to use and cheaper than any other combination currently available (although it will contain amodiaquine, which may exhibit resistance problems in some settings). The drug, launched on March 9, 2007, is expected to be available to patients in sub-Saharan Africa later in the year. Novartis is taking its commitment even further, having recently established a new facility in Singapore to conduct research on malaria (as well as tuberculosis and Dengue fever).[57] This multimillion-dollar project is run by Alex Matter, who has screened the entire Novartis drug library (over 2 million compounds) for substances that may be effective vaccines and antimalarials.[58] So far, Matter and his team have identified 17,000 compounds active against malaria. As admirable and promising as these efforts are, one has to question the sense of a for-profit company pursuing a perpetually nonprofit venture. Another consideration is the long-run impact of shareholder pressure on companies that continue to lose money on operations for which they get little credit or goodwill recognition in the other column of the balance sheet. While many U.S. companies’ share prices have fallen over the past five years, Sanofi-Aventis and Novartis remain anomalies, with both outperforming the market. But this performance may not be everlasting. Novartis donates about 2.2 percent of its revenue (in-kind and financial) every year to help combat diseases such as malaria. Compare this with the UN member nations’ pledge of government aid of 0.7 percent of GDP per year, honored more in the breach than the observance. But if Novartis fails to perform so well in the future, perhaps this 2.2 percent of revenue will need to be reclaimed.

News selected by Covalence | Country: Global | Company: Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis | Source: Medical News Today

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