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Malaria new drug trials in India

Mumbai, June 27: Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said its experimental combination therapy for malaria is about three times more effective than the most commonly used drug for the deadly disease.

The world’s biggest drugmaker has chosen India as one of the countries to conduct clinical trials for Zithromax/Chloroquine combination, its proposed anti-malaria medicine .

Chloroquine, introduced more than 30 years ago, continues to be the standard treatment for malaria. However, it is being felt that as the malaria parasite has developed resistance to chloroquine, the medicine now is often ineffective.

Pfizer claims that trials conducted against drug-resistant malaria using a combination of Zithromax (an antibiotic) and chloroquine, the commonly used malaria treatment, have shown very promising results.

Dr Mike Dunne, who is leading Pfizer’s efforts, said larger-scale clinical trials are planned and will involve over 1,200 patients in India, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru and South Africa, all countries where the prevalence of malaria is high.

The company added that it has begun discussions about the programme with officials in these countries and with the US Food and Drug Administration.

Plasmodium falciparum is the most common form of malaria — a mosquito-borne disease that affects 300 million people worldwide and results in approximately 1.5 million deaths each year.

The other three species of malaria parasite are plasmodium vivax, plasmodium malariae and plasmodium ovale.

India contributed to more than 70 million cases and close to a million deaths prior to the launch of the National Malaria Control Programme in 1953. Although there was a significant decline in the later years, it has sprung up again as a major challenge.

Pfizer said its scientists, who set out to find a more potent therapy, found that 28 days after taking chloroquine, only 31 per cent of patients were free of symptoms.

That number was slightly higher at 38 per cent when patients were given Zithromax. But when the two medicines were combined, the success rate rose to 96 per cent.

“The combination has been shown to be three times more effective than chloroquine alone. Pfizer will begin Phase III clinical trials, the final stage of human testing, on three continents to definitively demonstrate the efficacy of Zithromax combined with chloroquine,” the company said.

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