Ministry explains presence of WHO-banned malaria drugs

Benson Wambugu | 09 Jan 2009
Business Daily (Nairobi)
The Government has defended the presence of some anti-malarial drugs banned by the World Health organisation (WHO) three years ago.

They are safe for expectant mothers, the director of Medical Services, Dr Francis Kimani, has said.

But Dr Kimani explained drug importers, manufacturers, dealers, distributors and retailers selling them to expecting mothers have been instructed to release them only for rectal or parenteral use (not to be taken directly by mouth).

He said more inspectors had been dispatched to the provincial and district headquarters to work with the police and regional regulators "to mop up any illegal drugs and ensure that the drugs left on the medical counters are labelled and used in accordance with the anti-malarial guidelines developed by the Pharmacy and Poisons Board (PPB)."

In January last year, WHO moved a notch higher and asked pharmaceutical companies to stop marketing artemesinin mono therapies as opposed to combination therapies amid fears the malaria parasite was developing resistance to the drugs.

However, there has been a slow response to the warnings with fears that drug manufacturers in developed countries and Asia were targeting the Third World where there is weak market surveillance to dispose of the banned drugs.

Restricted formulations

Yesterday, Dr Kimani said artemesinin mono-therapies were no longer being registered or approved for the treatment of malaria.
They were only being used in the parenteral or rectal formulations.

The official also said Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine (SP) combinations —most notable, fancidar and matacalfin tablets — are only being registered for use in intermittent preventative treatment (IPT) in pregnancy and not for the treatment of malaria.

The Ministry of Medical Services says it has also banned Amodiaquine as a drug for treating malaria, except where it is used in combination with an artemesinin derivative.

"Combination therapies are recommended because they kill both the protozoa and parasites that cause malaria unlike mono-therapies that create room for drug resistance," Dr Kimani said.

The Poisons board that had earlier set a deadline of September 30, 2008 for phasing out of all the banned anti-malarial drugs in compliance with treatment guidelines has since developed a training curriculum for healthcare professionals.

The guidleines will be distributed, he said.

Dangerous market

The ministry's reaction comes in the wake of reports that liberalisation has turned Kenya into a dangerous free-for-all market for malaria drugs where more than 113 dug brands from 20 countries — most of it not vetted — are being sold.