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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Govt requests aid to pay for malaria drugs

Govt requests aid to pay for malaria drugs

Plan would subsidise the cost of quality medicine for the poor.

CAMBODIA has requested US$9.5 million from Global Fund to help finance a new campaign to fight the spread of malaria, a health official said.
Duong Socheat, director of the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control, said Sunday that the scheme was intended to make quality anti-malaria treatment cheaper and more accessible for Cambodia's poorer communities.

"Nowadays, poor people can only get anti-malaria treatment from public health centres and hospitals," he said. "If they were to go to private clinics, they wouldn't be able to afford it because they cost up to US$3 per tablet. We want to lower that cost to less than $0.50 per tablet."

Malaria is a potentially deadly disease that kills more than a million people each year. It is caused by malaria parasites injected into the bloodstream by infected mosquitoes.

The number of malaria-related deaths in Cambodia almost doubled during the first six months of this year compared with the same period in 2008, the National Centre for Parasitology, Entomology and Malaria Control announced earlier this month. Between January and June last year, there were 25,033 reported cases, of which 65 proved fatal. Between January and June 2009, a similar number of cases were reported - 27,105 in total - but the number of fatalities had risen to 103. The report attributed the increase to the early arrival of the rainy season and a delay in distributing mosquito nets.

A study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine warned that malaria parasites in western Cambodia have become resistant to artemisinin-based therapies, the first-line treatment for malaria. Resistance to the drugs makes them less effective and could eventually render them obsolete, putting millions of lives at risk.

The new proposal includes plans to tackle the emergence of treatment-resistant parasites, eliminate the market in fake malaria treatment and provide affordable, quality medication. The centre said it will know if its application has been successful by the end of this year.

Artemisinin-based drugs have been in use in western Cambodia for about 30 years. In 2001, the country became one of the first to switch to artemisinin-based combination therapies, now recommended by the World Health Organisation as the first-line treatment for uncomplicated falciparum malaria. However, the majority of patients in the country receive their medication from the private sector, which is less well-regulated.

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