Rich countries and international aid organizations should subsidize the cost of new anti-malaria drugs for the millions of people with the disease in less affluent countries, the Institute of Medicine said yesterday.
The toll from malaria has been rising in recent years as the disease has become resistant to standard treatments, the institute reported. The World Health Organization estimates that malaria causes at least 1 million deaths annually. A newer treatment called artemisinin combination therapy -- ACT -- is effective against current strains of malaria.
"The widely used drug chloroquine likely will be useless within a relatively short time, making it all the more urgent that the global community provide significant subsidies to get ACTs into widespread use everywhere that malaria is endemic," said Kenneth Arrow, a professor of economics at Stanford University who chaired the panel, in a statement. "Worldwide use of ACTs will enable us to halt and even reverse the rising death toll from malaria while development of new and perhaps more effective remedies continues."
ACT costs about $2 per treatment, an amount beyond the reach of many in poor countries, said the report from the institute, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences. The institute called for a global subsidy program to spend $300 million to $500 million within five years to purchase supplies of ACT and make them available where needed at a cost of about 10 cents per treatment, about the same as for the increasingly ineffective drugs now being used. The plasmodium parasite that causes malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes.