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The World in Medicine
December 13, 2000

Drugs in Short Supply

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JAMA. 2000;284(22):2863. doi:10.1001/jama.284.22.2863

The worldwide supply of antiparasitic drugs appears to be dwindling because markets where the drugs most commonly are used are not economically viable, according to researchers who spoke at the recent American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene meeting in Houston.

"Parasites are a very common cause of disease in the world, but because there is no market for antiparasitic drugs, drug companies are discontinuing production," said A. Clayton White, Jr, MD, of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. White's "no market" reference means that parasitic diseases occur most often in developing countries that cannot afford to support production of the drugs.

White and a colleague from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that US production of praziquantel, used to treat schistosomiasis, had been halted because the drug isn't profitable. Bithionol, which is used to treat liver fluke infections, is available only through the CDC because its production stopped in 1979.

Praziquantel production has resumed, but White suggested that drug companies should receive US support to ensure that supplies remain adequate.