The Associated Press examines the debate over the future of the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm), after the recent release of two papers evaluating the program’s effectiveness. AMFm was established in 2010 as “a pilot project to subsidize artemesinin combination drugs, the most effective malaria treatment,” the AP writes, noting the $460 million program is managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. “Last week, a report by Oxfam, an international charity, labeled the program a failure and said there was no proof it had saved lives because officials didn’t track who received the drugs,” the news service writes, adding, “But in another paper published Wednesday in the journal Lancet, experts insisted the program was ‘an effective mechanism’ to lower the price of preferred malaria drugs and make them widely available.” The Global Fund is scheduled to discuss the future of the program at a meeting next month, according to the AP (Cheng, 10/31).
“Drug-resistant malaria is spreading in Asia, experts warned as a high-level conference opened Wednesday with the aim of hammering out an action plan to strengthen the region’s response,” Agence France-Presse reports. “Resistance to the drug used everywhere to cure the life-threatening disease has emerged in Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar,” Richard Feachem, director of global health at the University of California, San Francisco and former head of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, said, according to the news service. “The danger is that at some time this resistance may break out of Southeast Asia and crop up in Africa,” he added, AFP writes. Feachem spoke ahead of the “Malaria 2012: Saving Lives in the Asia-Pacific” conference in Sydney, which “will seek consensus on the actions needed to strengthen the region’s response to malaria,” according to AFP (Coorey, 10/31).
A new pilot project in Cambodia is allowing more than 3,000 volunteer health workers to use a special mobile phone text messaging service to report new cases of malaria, in addition to providing no-cost testing and treatment “in remote parts of the impoverished nation, where access to health services can be difficult,” Agence France-Presse reports. When a person tests positive for malaria, health workers begin them on treatment immediately and send a text message with the patient’s age, gender, type of malaria, and location “to the district health center, provincial health officials and a national malaria database in the capital Phnom Penh — a process that used to take a month,” AFP notes. “The information is also fed into Google Earth to create a map of reported cases and of potential hotspots of [malaria drug] resistance,” a problem in western Cambodia, according to the news service. “Together, the data helps officials track each case and make sure the right treatment is available or that more medication is supplied when stocks are running low,” AFP writes, adding, “Some 230 volunteers have used the mobile phone service so far and there are plans to eventually include all volunteers in the project,” which is being implemented by the Malaria Consortium (Se, 9/17).
In this post in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog, Laura Newman, a senior communications officer of the Malaria Control and Evaluation Partnership in Africa, examines the role of community health workers in “Zambia’s three-step plan to establish large malaria-free zones in the country by 2015.” She notes “all three steps rely heavily on Zambia’s network of community health workers — the backbone of Zambia’s rural health system” — and she details these steps (9/18).
In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan, a CGD research fellow, and Rachel Silverman, a research assistant for the global health team at the center, examine the future of UNITAID. “Perhaps due to its relative obscurity and late entry to a crowded global health field, UNITAID has proactively worked to differentiate itself through a focus on commodities, market shaping, novel funding sources, and innovation,” but, “as UNITAID celebrates its sixth birthday …, it stands at a potential crossroads,” they write. Fan and Silverman note that a five-year evaluation report on the future of UNITAID, commissioned by its Executive Board, is forthcoming, and they highlight a paper (.pdf) in which they “outline some contradictions and limitations of UNITAID’s current approach.” They write, “We hope that the imminent evaluation provides the impetus for UNITAID to turn inward and do something truly innovative: buck institutional inertia, change course as necessary, and reinvent itself as the solution to 2012’s biggest global health challenges” (9/17).
Bill Gates Describes How 'Catalytic Philanthropy' Can Help Bring Vaccines, Medicines To Untouched Markets
In an essay adapted for Forbes magazine from a speech given at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy in June, Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, discusses how “[i]nnovations for the poor suffer from … market limitations” and his idea of “catalytic philanthropy.” Gates writes, “The market is not going to place huge bets on research when there are no buyers for a breakthrough. This explains why we have no vaccine for malaria today, even though a million people die from it every year.” Therefore, “when you come to the end of the innovations that business and government are willing to invest in, you still find a vast, unexplored space of innovation where the returns can be fantastic,” he continues.
Hereditary Blood Disorder Found In South-East Asia, South-West Pacific Could Offer Clues For Malaria Vaccine
“A team of international scientists has found that a type of hereditary disorder in some communities in South-East Asia and the South-West Pacific protects its sufferers from malaria, a finding that could drive future vaccine design,” SciDev.Net reports. “Southeast Asian Ovalocytosis (SAO), an inherited disorder in which red blood cells are oval, instead of round, could be a unique human adaptation to resist malaria, according to a paper published in PLoS Medicine this month,” the news service writes.
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) — an innovative financing mechanism that subsidizes the cost of artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) in order to expand access to the most effective treatment for malaria — “brought more than 100 million doses of malaria drugs to clinics and pharmacies in 2011” and “also increased access to the top malaria medicines by 26 to 52 percent in six countries,” according to results from the first phase of the program, which is hosted and managed by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, NPR’s “Shots” blog reports. The results of the evaluation, released on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., do not estimate how many lives were saved because of improved access to effective malaria medications, as “AMFm ran for only a year and half in most countries,” according to the blog. “The AMFm negotiated with drugmakers to reduce ACTs prices, and then the Global Fund subsidized the initial purchasing of the drugs by clinics and pharmacies,” the blog notes.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has published Issue 8 of its newsletter, the “Global Fund News Flash.” The issue reports on the Board’s approval of a new funding approach; says “the Board extended the mandate of the Global Fund to host the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria for another year after the end of its pilot phase in December”; notes the Global Fund adopted a code of conduct for grant recipients; and profiles Linda Mafu, head of civil society and political advocacy at the Global Fund (9/20).
About three years after two villages in Benin began using insecticide-treated bed nets to help prevent malaria, mosquitoes in the area changed their biting habits, so their “hours of ‘peak aggression’ [went] from 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. to around 5 a.m.” and “in one village, the proportion of mosquito bites inflicted outdoors rose,” according to a study published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, Reuters reports. “The finding is ‘worrying since villagers usually wake up before dawn to work in crops, and as such they are not protected by mosquito nets,’ senior researcher Vincent Corbel of the Montpellier, France-based Institute of Research for Development said in an email,” the news service writes. Thomas Eisele of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, who was not involved in the study, “said the results should be interpreted with caution” because of difficulties in collecting “biting behavior” activity and the short study period, Reuters notes. Corbel “said more research should be done into the possible effects of different mosquito-control methods on the insects’ behavior,” according to the news service (Norton, 9/19).