Malaria

South Africa to benefit from malaria drug deal

Swiss drug company Novartis has indicated that is in the final stages of negotiating a slash in the price of a malaria drug, a move that would benefit South Africa as well.

Swiss drug company Novartis has indicated that is in the final stages of negotiating a slash in the price of a malaria drug, a move that would benefit South Africa as well.

Novartis SA spokesperson Heibrie Wolmarans said they have been working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) for some time in an effort to make the drug, Coartem more accessible to those countries where malaria is endemic.

“The negotiations started last year already, but we are still negotiating,” Wolmarans said.

She said Coartem was being supplied to South Africa via the State Tender System.

“So South Africa would be at the forefront of receiving the benefits,” Wolmarans said.

She confirmed that the company would offer the drug “at a price at which we don’t make any profit, but we won’t make a loss either”.

The cost for the drug in the West was in the order of U$40 (about R320) to U$50 (about R400) for a full treatment.

The New York Times reported that Novartis had agreed with the WHO to sell the drug in Africa for about $2 (about R16) for a full treatment.  

Dr David Heyman, head of the WHO’s communicable diseases programme, said the UN agency was in final negotiations with Novartis on an agreement to sell the product and that the price had yet to be determined.

But he told the New York Times that the company had committed itself to selling the drug at cost in   the developing world.

“We’re very, very pleased with this,” said Heyman. “It’s a very generous and very important offer” that would give health authorities a broader range of treatments to combat resistant strains of malaria.

Malaria kills 1-million people annually, most of them African children under 5.

Malaria is spread by a parasite transmitted in the bite of the Anopheles mosquito.

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Anso Thom