With the support of UNITAID* and Medicines for Malaria Venture Universal, Corporation Ltd (UCL) has become the first African manufacturer to obtain prequalification from the World Health Organization of a key medicine to prevent malaria in pregnant women and children.
According to the latest global report on malaria, it is estimated that in 2020 there were 241 million cases of malaria in the world, of which at least 627,000 were fatal. So far almost all malaria cases and deaths have occurred in AfricaPregnant women and children are among the most susceptible to malaria.
“In 2020 alone, Africa was home to 95% of all malaria cases and 96% of all deaths. Around 80% of all malaria deaths in the region are in children under the age of five,” said Hervé Verhoosel, spokesperson for UNITAID.
“The quality certification will allow the UCL company to support regional efforts to strengthen regional supply availability and combat malaria through local production,” he added.
Effective supply of medicines to prevent malaria
The drug Sulfadoxine-Pyrimethamine (SP) is effective, tolerable and affordable to prevent malaria. However, its supply and sourcing is often hampered by an inadequate and unstable distribution chain and, until now, has relied entirely on imported or poor-quality drugs.
Prequalification is a service provided by the World Health Organization to assess the quality, safety, and efficacy of medicines.
UCL company’s SP medicine quality assurance opens a way for global partners to purchase the product more efficiently. It will also improve access and will help strengthen Africa’s capacity to combat endemic diseases.
“Researchers and manufacturers in the countries hardest hit by malaria must be at the forefront of efforts to defeat the disease, so we welcome this exciting news,” said David Reddy, CEO of Medicines for Malaria Venture Universal.
This advance responds to the demand to locally produce quality medicines for use in Africa.
Need intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic
According to the UNITAID spokesperson, this need was intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic when the continent was left with limited access to vital health products.
“UNITAID welcomes UCL’s certification to produce this quality-assured antimalarial medicine in Africa, where around 95% of all malaria illnesses and deaths occur. Strengthening the local production of medicines where they are most needed is essential to create stronger and more resilient health responses,” said Dr. Philippe Duneton, executive director of that organization.
UNITAID’s malaria prevention strategy sees nearly $160 million invested to date to optimize and expand the supply of the SP drug through seasonal delivery and intermittent preventive treatment in pregnant women and children.
With funding from UNITAID, the Medicines for Malaria Venture Universal is working to strengthen global supply chains and support the proper use of quality medicines critical to the malaria response.
*An international initiative of the United Nations that promotes access to treatment for diseases such as AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis