East Asia Summit and Pacific countries, international organizations, and experts have made 12 high-level recommendations to combat antimalarial drug resistance and accelerate progress towards the elimination of malaria in the region.
The recommendations were developed by the Asia Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance’s (APLMA) Access to Quality Medicines and Other Technologies Taskforce, led by Australia and India, and co-chaired by their Secretaries of Health, Jane Halton and Lov Verma, and hosted by the Western Pacific Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO).
The taskforce recognized the efforts and resources already committed by countries, donors, and partners to the fight against malaria have achieved significant progress, and reduced the number of infections and deaths.
However, drug resistant malaria is putting these gains at risk.
The 12 recommendations propose actions to mitigate this risk by improving access to quality-assured anti malarials; stopping production of inappropriate therapies; improving diagnostic testing; improving coordination; and targeting hotspots in order to stop the spread of drug resistant malaria.
Ms. Halton said the region had a limited window of opportunity.
“There is potential for disaster if drug resistant malaria is not contained,” she said, emphasizing that it would not only result in more deaths and more human suffering, but subsequently lead to a loss of productivity in the region.
Mr. Verma highlighted the critical role of strengthening national drug regulatory authorities to improve access to quality drugs, mosquito nets, and diagnostic tests in both public and private sectors.
“Looking to the morbidity and mortality figures due to malaria, and the alarming rise of anti-malarial resistance, we need to accord top priority to this public health problem,” he said.
Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, urged countries and partners to work together more closely on controlling drug resistance. “With artemisinin resistance, you are only as safe as your neighbor,” Dr. Shin pointed out. He continued, “the painful truth is that one large-scale stock-out of malaria medicines or insecticides and bed nets can reverse years of gains in a single season.”
APLMA is a leader-level initiative to promote regional collaboration against malaria disease in the region. APLMA is hosted and supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The taskforce’s recommendations will be finalized by August and then submitted to leaders.