Tag Archives: World Health Organization

Fake Drugs will not Cure Malaria

The latest assault on malaria is unprecedented. Last year an array of organisations, including the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, based at the WHO and founded in 1998, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, founded in 2002, and the President’s Malaria Initiative, founded under George Bush in 2005, spent a record $2 billion fighting it.  The Roll Back Malaria Partnership has set goals for 2015 that include the heroic aim of cutting malaria deaths to near zero. This would mean more than doubling spending, to $5 billion a year. Mr Chambers is trying to rally the troops. The report he is to present estimates the benefits of fighting malaria in sub-Saharan Africa, which is reckoned to have accounted for nine-tenths of worldwide deaths from the disease in 2010.

Universal deployment of good treatment, diagnostics and preventive measures, including bed nets, would—in theory—prevent 640m malaria cases and 3m deaths by 2015, the paper explains. This would cost at least $6.7 billion between 2012 and 2015, says the African Leaders Malaria Alliance, a regional lobby. But, says the report, it would be a brilliant investment, yielding an astonishing $231 billion-$311 billion, counted in lives saved and malaria cases averted, if you factor in productivity gains and savings in the cost of treatment.

That $6.7 billion is not likely to materialise in its entirety soon. Nor does it include the cost of training health workers and improving surveillance. Problems of counterfeit or substandard medicines are particularly worrying. Tanzanian regulators recently seized 155 containers of fake anti-malarials. Since 2010 the Global Fund has subsidised the private market for the best anti-malaria drugs, known as artemisinin-combination therapies (ACTs). But Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute, a think-tank, found that 8% of subsidised ACTs in his sample had too little of the active ingredient. Moreover, those mosquitoes are beginning to resist ACTs and popular insecticides. The battle is far from over.

Fighting Malaria: Net benefit, Economist July 14, 2012, at 42

See also Malaria’s Deaths

The Next Pandemic and the United States Military

U.S. military forces are the front line of U.S. national security, but as a globally deployed force they are also on the front line of any new pathogen-based health threat that may emerge [including also due to biological warfare]. As overall human activity pushes ever further into previously undeveloped territory, the likelihood of exposure to new pandemic diseases increases.  The 2009 Army Posture Statement, cites a World Health Organization estimate of between 20 and 50 percent of the world’s population being affected if a pandemic were to emerge. WHO forecasts “it may be six to nine months before a vaccine for a pandemic virus strain becomes available.” In a separate report on pandemic influenza, the WHO describes several challenges to producing sufficient volumes of vaccine using current, egg-based protein-production technology, including the likelihood that two doses per person could be required due to the absence of pre-existing immunity.

In short, the potential for a pandemic exists and current technological limitations on defensive measures put the health and readiness of U.S. military forces at risk. A technological solution to increase the speed and adaptability of vaccine production is urgently needed to match the broad biological threat.

DARPA’s Blue Angel program seeks to demonstrate a flexible and agile capability for the Department of Defense to rapidly react to and neutralize any natural or intentional pandemic disease. Building on a previous DARPA program, Accelerated Manufacture of Pharmaceuticals, Blue Angel targets new ways of producing large amounts of high-quality, vaccine-grade protein in less than three months in response to emerging and novel biological threats. One of the research avenues explores plant-made proteins for candidate vaccine production.“Vaccinating susceptible populations during the initial stage of a pandemic is critical to containment,” said Dr. Alan Magill, DARPA program manager. “We’re looking at plant-based solutions to vaccine production as a more rapid and efficient alternative to the standard egg-based technologies, and the research is very promising.”

In a recent milestone development under Blue Angel, researchers at Medicago Inc. produced more than 10 million doses (as defined in an animal model) of an H1N1 influenza vaccine candidate based on virus-like particles (VLP) in one month….“The results we’ve achieved here with plant-based production of vaccines represent both significant increase in scale and decrease in time-to-production over previous production capabilities in the same time period. The plant-made community is now better positioned to continue development and target FDA approval of candidate vaccines,” Magill said. “Once the FDA has approved a plant-made vaccine candidate, the shorter production times of plant-made pharmaceuticals should allow DoD to be much better prepared to face whatever pandemic next emerges.”

DARPA Makes 10 Million Strides in the Race to Contain a Hypothetical Pandemic, July 25, 2012 (from the website of DARPA)