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Drugs. 1995 Oct;50(4):714-41.

Artesunate. A review of its pharmacology and therapeutic efficacy in the treatment of malaria.

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1
Adis International Limited, Auckland, New Zealand.

Abstract

Artesunate is an antimalarial agent, available in oral, rectal and parenteral formulations, that provides a rapid clinical effect in patients with Plasmodium falciparum malaria. The rapidity of effect, availability of an intravenous and intramuscular formulation and convenient dosage regimen make artesunate an ideal candidate for the treatment of severe malaria, including cerebral disease. While some results have been promising, there is no clear evidence to date that artesunate reduces mortality in patients with cerebral malaria to any greater extent than standard quinine therapy. When given as monotherapy, treatment should be continued for at least 5 to 7 days to prevent recrudescence. Combination therapy with mefloquine allows artesunate to be administered over 3 days or less, with a satisfactory clinical outcome maintained. Although optimal dosages remain to be determined, this combination continues to provide the rapid onset of clinical effect observed with artesunate monotherapy, but decreases the rate of recrudescence to 2% (i.e. radical cure rate of 98%) when used as treatment in patients with uncomplicated malaria from areas with a high risk of multidrug-resistance falciparum malaria. Although assessment of tolerability is complicated by the difficulty of distinguishing between disease- and treatment-related events, artesunate and artesunate-mefloquine combinations appear to be well tolerated in adults and children. Indeed, it is possible that prior administration of artesunate may reduce the incidence of mefloquine-induced vomiting. Clinical findings to date have not revealed any pattern of resistance to artesunate after use of the drug. However, given the history of the development of resistance to other antimalarial drugs, the use of artesunate should be restricted to areas of multidrug resistance, the drug should be used in combination with a longer acting agent such as mefloquine, and it should be used in regimens that provide radical cure rates of 90 to 100%. If used according to these treatment principles, artesunate will provide a well tolerated and valuable addition to the current extremely limited treatment options for multidrug-resistant falciparum malaria, a widespread parasitic disease associated with considerable mortality.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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