How Effective Is Artesunate for Malaria?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2019
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Artesunate for malaria can be highly effective. Several studies published in 2011 indicated that it outperformed quinine, the historic gold standard for malaria treatment. This led to revisions of recommendations by some agencies that set or shape policy related to malaria treatment and prevention. People who receive artesunate for malaria have a lower risk of mortality than patients on quinine, and may experience fewer side effects related to their treatment.

This medication is part of a group of drugs termed artemesinins. They are Chinese in origin and derived from plants. Studies analyzing the action of artesunate in the body indicate that it can clear parasites quickly and efficiently, although it is also metabolized rapidly. For this reason, combination therapy with a long-acting agent may be necessary to eradicate the infection and suppress a recurrence. Without the second drug, the patient may experience a flareup after treatment.

Patients taking artesunate for malaria experience relatively limited side effects, although some studies have linked the medication with anemia after therapy. In addition, the parasites responsible for malaria infection are not resistant to the medication. This is particularly important in regions of the world where malaria is endemic and hard to treat because it resists commonly used medications. These infections can be more likely to be fatal, because the patient’s treatment regimen may fail to control the parasites.


The drug is delivered intravenously, which requires some basic safety procedures to inject the medication safely to lower the risk of infection or other complications. Patients taking artesunate for malaria need to follow care directions to reduce the risk of recurrence. A long-acting agent may be given orally and must be taken for the duration of treatment even if the patient feels better and doesn’t think the infection will recur. Dormant parasites can emerge after the artesunate clears the system, potentially causing a malaria relapse.

Where this medication is available, it may be recommended for malaria treatment. Patients who cannot access artesunate for malaria through conventional means may be able to enroll in a clinical trial, compassionate use program, or special drug release system. The options can depend on the nation and the level of regulation. A doctor can provide more information about how the patient can access medications that may not be available to the general public yet due to the fact that they are still undergoing the drug evaluation and approval process.



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