Premier health institutes are responsible for malarial deaths

Published: Sunday 29 February 2004

Millions of children from poor countries are dying needlessly because of 'institutional inadequacies' of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). This allegation has been made by a group of researchers in an article published in The Lancet. According to them, the institutes are promoting medicines which fail to work in 80 per cent of the cases. Such an approach, they assert, will lead to the failure of WHO's 1998 Roll Back Malaria Campaign, aimed at halving malarial deaths by 2010.

It is well established that the most widely used malarial drugs -- chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) -- are no longer effective because the disease parasite has become resistant to them. During 2001, WHO began promoting a newer and effective medication known as artemisinin-class combination therapy (ACT). Ironically, developed nations were the only beneficiaries of the new strategy. "There are numerous incidences wherein WHO has violated the policy in poor nations," says Amir Attaran, one of the article's researchers.

To date, most African countries cling to chloroquine, SP, or the insignificantly better combination of both, because ACT is 10 times more expensive. "When these countries seek financial aid from GFATM to purchase ACT, they are forcefully pressured out of it by governments such as that of the US...WHO acquiesces to this pressure and despite a policy that names ACT as the gold standard of treatment, it gives its approval when GFATM funds chloroquine or SP," the article states. The researchers conclude that the stance of the institutes is indefensible, and their conduct is tantamount to medical malpractices.

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