Ranbaxy laboratories today launched a new antimalarial drug, Synriam to treat malaria caused by plasmodium falciparum parasite. The drug will treat uncomplicated malaria. The research, which took place for nine years, was partly supported by the Indian government.
Clinical trials in India, Tanzania, and Thailand have suggested that the drug has an amazing 95% cure rate and could serve as alternative to existing anti-malarial therapy. Senior Ranbaxy officials announced today that the drug would be made available in India at Rs 130 for three tablets, and treatment would involve taking a single tablet for three days.
“Almost 77 percent of the 2.5 million malaria patients in South East Asia are in India. Synriam will certainly become the preferred option in the hands of doctors to fight malaria, which annually claims half a million lives globally,” Sawhney said.
The drug is a combination of two molecules — arterolane, discovered and patented several years ago by Professor Jonathan Vennestrom, a medicinal chemistry expert at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre in the US — and piperaquine, an anti-malarial known since the 1960s. “Arterolane is a short-acting anti-malarial molecule and piperaquine is a long-acting molecule. We’ve combined the two to create a new combination therapy exactly on lines recommended by the World Health Organisation,” said Sudershan Arora, head of research at Ranbaxy.
India’s department of science and technology (DST) contributed about Rs 5 crore to the research. One of the basic objectives of the research was to make the salt structure of arterolane to increase its availability in the body. Public health specialists estimate that about half of India’s estimated 1.5 million cases of malaria each year are caused by the plasmodium falciparum parasite, the others are caused by Plasmodium vivax .
“This new drug is intended for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria — not for severe malaria (also known as malignant malaria) which requires different treatment strategies,” said Neena Valecha, a senior scientist at the National Institute of Malaria Research, New Delhi, who was involved in assessing the clinical trials of the drug in India. In 2010, malaria caused an estimated 655,000 deaths worldwide. About 560,000 of the victims were children under five years of age, which means malaria killed one child every minute.