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Artemether® is a prescription medication used to treat moderate to severe cases of malaria. It is a very potent drug that is normally reserved for cases in which more common antimalarial medications such as chloroquine and quinine prove ineffective. Artemether® is usually combined in an oral tablet with another antimalarial drug called lumefantrine to increase its effectiveness. Most patients who take the medication as instructed by a doctor see symptom improvement in about three days. Complete recovery from malaria can take several more days or weeks following the course of treatment.
Several different species of parasites can cause malaria, and most infections are easily treated with chloroquine or similar drugs. Certain types of parasites, however, have evolved a resistance to common antimalarial drugs. Artemether® is reserved for patients who do not respond to conventional drug therapy. Doctors are not sure exactly how the medication works, but research suggests that it invades parasitic cells and disrupts protein synthesis. In turn, parasites are unable to reproduce or metabolize the nutrients necessary for survival. Artemether® prevents infection from worsening and gradually eradicates existing parasites from the body.
Dosage amounts are determined based on the age of the patient and the severity of his or her illness. Most adults are given four tablets of an Artemether® and lumefantrine combination twice daily for three consecutive days. Pediatric patients usually undergo a three-day course of treatment as well, but they may only need one or two tablets for each dose instead of four. If an infant or child has trouble swallowing the tablet, it may be crushed and mixed with a carefully measured amount of water. The prescribing doctor or pharmacist can help patients or their parents ensure the proper dose is prepared to avoid under- or overdose complications.
Artemether® may cause side effects, but reactions can be difficult to distinguish from symptoms of the underlying malaria infection. Common side effects include fatigue, nausea, headaches, joint pain, and muscle stiffness. Stomach upset, vomiting, and insomnia can occur as well. An allergic reaction can rarely occur and cause skin hives, increased heart rate, swelling in the throat and face, and breathing difficulties. Patients who take Artemether® outside of a hospital setting need to be aware of the signs of a serious reaction and seek medical help right away if problems arise.
Most people respond well to treatment with Artemether® and lumefantrine. In most cases, malaria symptoms gradually disappear within one week and patients start to regain their strength and appetites. A doctor can confirm the infection is cured during a follow-up visit about a week after treatment.