Drug discovery is a lucrative business, except when it comes to finding agents for diseases that mostly affect the world's poor. Despite this, while most laboratories and pharmaceutical companies seek therapies for common conditions such as cancer, heart disease, insomnia, and sexual dysfunction to be marketed to patients in wealthy countries, a number of recent efforts have turned to developing drugs to manage the scourge of malaria in developing nations.
One of the most groundbreaking efforts came earlier this year when a new, inexpensive, and effective pill to treat malaria was made available through a partnership between Sanofi-Aventis, based in Paris, and the nonprofit Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)—Doctors Without Borders—in Geneva. The pill, called ASAQ, combines a Chinese herb called artemisinin with an anti-inflammatory agent, amodiaquine. A treatment costs less than $1 for adults and 50 cents for children. In addition, Sanofi-Aventis has not sought any patents so that the pills can be freely copied by generic companies.
Hampton T. Antimalarial Drugs—Here and On the Horizon. JAMA. 2007;297(20):2185-2186. doi:10.1001/jama.297.20.2185