India develops new malaria drug

India has developed a powerful new malaria drug — an alternative to the global drug of choice Artemisinin — that promises to be a major boost to India’s pharmaceutical research.  What is most exciting about this new drug is that its raw material is synthetic (derived chemically in the lab) as against Artemisinin, which is derived from a plant.
Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ranbaxy will unveil India’s first new chemical entity (NCE) against the P falciparum malaria on Wednesday to commemorate the World Malaria Day. Dr Neena Valecha from the National Institute of Malaria Research (NIMR) said this new once-a-day therapy for three days contains Arterolane and Piperaquine. 
Artemisinin is the only high-volume drug that continues to be produced from a plant-based source. China and Vietnam provide 70% and East Africa 20% of the raw material. Seedlings are grown in nurseries and then transplanted into fields. It takes about eight months for them to attain full size. The plants are harvested, leaves dried and sent to facilities where artemisinin is extracted. The market price for artemisinin has fluctuated widely, between $120 and $1,200 per kg from 2005 to 2008. Arterolane in combination with long acting piperaquine has been studied in phase II and III clinical trials in India, Bangladesh and Thailand. Most malaria parasites have become resistant to anti-malarial drugs.India records 1.5 million cases of malaria every year, 50% of which are caused by the falciparum malaria. Officially, an estimated 18,000 die of malaria in the country. 

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