WHO pre-qualifies Indian malaria drug

A malaria drug produced by the Indian pharmaceutical company Cipla was recently pre-qualified by the World Health Organization, a critical step towards its expected roll-out across Asia.

The drug has already been used in the treatment of 18,000 Indian adults and is poised to become a first-line treatment against the mosquito-borne illness in several South East Asian nations, according to Reuters.

"It addresses an important public health need in the region as it forms part of the malaria treatment arsenal necessary to control the disease," Bernard Pecoul, the executive director of the nonprofit research and development organization Drugs for Neglected Diseases, said, Reuters reports.

DNDi estimates that there are 25 million cases of malaria in the western Pacific and South Asia region every year.

The WHO's pre-qualification indicates that the drug meets certain standards for quality, safety and efficacy and allows aid agencies, including the United Nations Children's Fund and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, to buy it in bulk.

The drug is one of five artemisinin combination therapies now recommended by the WHO for treatment of plasmodium falciparum malaria. It is the first of the five that has been pre-qualified as a fixed-dose of artesunate and melfoquine molecules.