African Health Science Congress
The recent 5 day meeting of the African Health Science
Congress in Kampala, Uganda has highlighted the vital need
for new drugs to fight malaria. In drug resistant areas,
ineffective treatment is not only a human tragedy leading
to unnecessary deaths and prolonged illness, but is an economic
drain. Using ineffective drugs only means that malaria patients
will seek treatment again and again, will be a drain on
the health resources of the country and will remain economically
unproductive for longer.
The new drug and vaccine initiatives between the WHO, other
agencies, donors and the private sector are most encouraging.
The private sector has shown its commitment to tackling
developing country diseases and projects such as the Medicines
for Malaria Venture (MMV) should be encouraged and have
great potential. It is clear that the protection of intellectual
property is not the barrier to drug access that many of
the drug activists claim it to be.
It is interesting to note that not one Indian pharmaceutical
company (of which there are over 20 000) has committed anything
to the MMV. No doubt if they were in a position to protect
their intellectual property in India, which they cannot,
their involvement would be different.
While drugs and bed nets are vital to fighting malaria,
it is disturbing that there has been no commentary on the
use of residual house spraying with insecticides. The evidence
is overwhelming that this is one of the most effective ways
of controlling malaria. While bed nets may provide some
personal protection, they do not provide the kind of public
health protection that a well managed, scientifically planned
household spray program has.
Recent spray programs, sponsored by private sector mining
operations, on the Zambian Copperbelt have reduced malaria
rates by over 50% in a single spray season. Residual house
spraying clearly has an important role to play, but is not
always suitable or applicable. If it is not being used on
sound scientific grounds, all well and good, however pressure
from environmentalists and donor agencies to move away from
RHS is likely to be a major reason for the change in focus.
Basing malaria control activities on the environmental
sensibilities of US or European donors, academics and pressure
groups is no way to fight malaria. It is shameful to expect
Africans in malarial areas to pay for the environmental
ideals of those in the developed North.
Comments on the above are welcomed. Mail Richard