Major malaria program's future in doubt

The future of a malaria program intended to provide cheap drugs for the poor in developing countries is in trouble after its effectiveness and cost were questioned by an international aid agency.

Groups such as the United Nations and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria started the Affordable Medicines Facility in 2010. The pilot program was intended to subsidize artemisinin combination drugs, regarded as the most effective malaria treatment, for those who cannot afford them, according to

The initiative cost more than $460 million and was initially tested in seven African countries and Cambodia. The Global Fund, UNITAID, and the Canadian and British governments paid the majority of the bill.

A recent report by the international charity Oxfam labeled the program a major failure. The report said that there is no proof that the program saved lives because officials never tracked who received the drugs. Most of the drugs were sold in the private sector, where few laws controlled who could receive them.

"It's time for this to be scrapped," Mohga Kamal-Yanni, the paper's author said, reports. "If you subsidize drugs and make them cheap, then clearly the supply will increase. But we have no idea whether the drugs are getting to the right people."

Another paper published in British medical journal The Lancet argued that the program was an effective mechanism to lower the price of the drugs. The Lancet paper found that a larger supply of the drugs existed in all of the African countries. Researchers did not measure any effect on the number of malaria cases.

Global Fund officials plan to discuss the program's fate at a previously scheduled meeting to be held next month.