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Artesunate Approved to Treat Severe Malaria in U.S.

FDA gives the nod for intravenous administration in emergencies

TUESDAY, Aug. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The U.S Food and Drug Administration has granted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approval to provide intravenous artesunate to treat severe malaria on an emergency basis.

Although the drug derived from the sweet wormwood plant has been used elsewhere in the world to treat malaria for more than 20 years, it has not been approved for marketing in the United States.

Approximately 1,400 cases of malaria are diagnosed each year in the United States. Although the disease was eliminated in the country in 1951, cases occur as a result of overseas travel and 10 percent of the cases are severe.

The new approval will allow physicians to use artesunate in severe cases of the disease, in patients with high blood levels of the malaria parasite, as well as those who cannot be treated with quinidine because of inefficacy, adverse reaction, intolerance of the drug or inability to take oral medications.

"The introduction of artesunate marks an important improvement in the way we are able to treat those with the most severe cases of malaria," said Paul Arguin, M.D., head of CDC's domestic malaria unit, in a statement. "Artesunate is considered to be more effective and has fewer side effects than quinidine, and we're hopeful that its use will cause a decrease in the number of deaths from malaria."

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