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Small African Nation Becomes Guinea Pig for Untested Chinese Malaria Drug

Posted: 11/28/2014 9:38 am


The entire population of the island nation of Comoros, on the east coast of Africa above the island of Madagascar, have been given a new, untested drug called Artequick designed to help stop the spread of malaria.

All 700,000 island residents were given Artequick in three doses over a span of several months by Chinese scientists representing Artepharm, the drug’s maker. The scientists say they are confident this is the only way to achieve positive results. They say eliminating the malaria parasite from the entire Comoron human population for more than three months exceeds the life cycle of the mosquito, leaving them without human hosts from which to transmit the disease.

The scientists say this method is more effective than the Western method, which is focused on killing mosquitoes. “The vision is to contribute to the elimination of malaria in the world,” Artepharm General Manager Pan Longhua said.

mosquitoDespite test results that show the drug has so far been successful, critics point out the drug has never been approved for humans by any international health body.

Andrea Bosman of the WHO’s Global Malaria Program criticized the scientists running the experiment for not properly monitoring the side effects. Local hospitals say the treated double the number of patients after the first administration of the drug.

Dr. Yao Kassankogno, the WHO representative in the Comoros, is afraid the drug will rob Comoros residents of their natural immunity to malaria, saying, ”After two or three years, if they lose (natural immunity), and the parasite comes back, everyone looks like new, and there will be more severe cases.”

However, the nation’s Vice President and Minister of Health Fouad Mhadji rejects any criticism of the wide-scale drug program as “propaganda fueled by Western rivals to the Chinese drug’s maker.”

Mhadji notes the program is bringing free medicine to Comoros and saving the island nation $11 million a year, adding the criticism revolves around where the drug comes from — China.

[h/t io9]


Photo: CBS News

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