By Dr David Reddy, CEO of MMV
We are at a critical juncture in the fight against malaria. After almost two decades of success in reversing the incidence of the disease, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that progress is stalling. In 2016, around 216 million people fell ill from malaria, 445,000 of whom lost their lives. In comparison with 2015, that’s almost 5 million more cases of people who became ill.
Maintaining or bettering the pace of progress witnessed during the last one and a half decades is the objective of the entire malaria community. For our part, MMV is focused on strengthening successful efforts to facilitate access to quality antimalarials while developing new measures to counter the challenges ahead.
MMV’s efforts to date have delivered seven new medicines, which are estimated to have saved the lives of more than 1.5 million people. Let me tell you about just one of them: 16-month-old Inness’s story of survival. MMV has been working with a consortium of partners led by the NGO Transaid, in Zambia, to provide access to severe malaria medicines. When Inness fell ill in early 2017 her mother brought her to a community health volunteer who had been trained to recognize severe malaria danger signs. The volunteer quickly administered a rectal artesunate suppository (RAS), provided by the project for pre-referral management of severe malaria. She was then referred to a clinic and treated with injectable artesunate followed by Coartem® Dispersible when she was able to hold down oral medicine. The combination of these medicines helped save her life. Unfortunately, we received word at the same time that others in her community who did not receive early enough intervention did not survive.
For MMV, Inness’s story has huge significance and, in particular, is a testament to the power of our partnerships to save lives, as well as our need to expand our access work to make sure that all children in need get these life-saving interventions. All the projects that enabled the medicines to reach Inness at the right time were conducted in partnership, harnessing the strength of numerous individuals and organizations. Our work with Indian pharmaceuticals company, Cipla to develop RAS and achieve a successful review by The Global Fund in 2016 paved the way for the first-ever batch of approximately 500,000 quality-assured suppositories to be delivered to the field. In 2010, with Chinese pharmaceutical company Guilin, we obtained prequalification of injectable artesunate: to date, 100 million vials have been delivered. In 2009, MMV launched Coartem Dispersible with partner Novartis: to date 350 million treatments have been delivered. We are moving deeper and deeper into the last mile with the medicines required to save the lives of people most vulnerable to malaria.
Our focus is not only on treatments for those who are already ill, MMV is also increasingly working with partners to use medicines to protect pregnant women and young children from getting malaria in the first place. For example, seasonal malaria chemoprevention administered to children under 5 in Africa’s Sahel region during the rainy season has dramatically reduced disease incidence. As part of the Unitaid-funded ACCESS-SMC consortium, MMV is supporting the scale-up of the intervention in 12 countries. In 2017, enough medicine was delivered to the Sahel to protect 17 million children.
Meanwhile, as attempts are made to contain artemisinin resistant malaria in Cambodia, we continue to see partner drugs succumbing to resistance in other parts of the world – another setback causing concern in our global efforts to defeat malaria. With partners, we are working to ensure the community will be ready with new drugs should resistance gain a greater hold.
With one eye on the shifting malaria landscape and another on the development of future antimalarials, we remain committed to maintaining the focus that has already helped us successfully deploy our seven co-developed medicines. Furthermore, together with our partners, we will do everything in our power to help save the lives of children like Inness and turn recent setbacks to success on the road to malaria eradication.About this Content