Novartis launches kid-friendly antimalarial

Malaria experts are hailing Novartis for launching a child-friendly version of its Coartem treatment. The new med contains the same dosage and ingredients as the adult version, but it's sweet-tasting and disperses quickly in small amounts of water. In the past, children were often given bitter-tasting crushed adult tablets to swallow. "As malaria is essentially a pediatric disease, we are hopeful that this child-friendly formulation will contribute to a reduction in child mortality in Africa," Chris Hentschel, CEO of Medicines for Malaria Venture, told Dow Jones.

The problem lies in distribution, the Wall Street Journal reports. There's lots of funding these days for malaria meds, from foundations and governments and other sources. But getting the meds to the people who need them can be a challenge in developing countries that lack the kind of shipping infrastructure we take for granted. Rural areas are especially difficult to reach. "In the end the only drug that matters is the drug that is swallowed," Novartis Chief Executive Daniel L. Vasella told the WSJ.

Coartem and its new formulation are newer meds as well, and so they're more costly than some long-used generic formulations. But resistance to the older drugs is growing, and even to some newer drugs that rely only on artemisinin, rather than a combo of an artemisinin derivative and another antimalarial med lumefantrine, as Coartem does. In some areas, the Clinton Foundation is experimenting with subsidizing the cost.

- check out the Novartis release
- see the WSJ story
- read the news from Dow Jones
- get the resistance article in the New York Times