02.11.2005 General News

Minister launches new malaria drug campaign

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Accra, Nov. 2, GNA - Health Minister Major Courage Quashigah (rtd) on Tuesday launched the national campaign for the policy on new anti-malaria drug, Artesunate-Amodiaquine, with a call on Ghanaians to ensure a reduction in the incidence of malaria.

Artesunate-Amodiaquine combination has been highly recommended because it has almost 100 per cent efficacy for the treatment of all malaria cases, while the old chloroquine could now only treat less than 50 per cent of patients, the Minister said in a speech read on his behalf by his Deputy, Mr Samuel Owusu-Agyei.

Major Quashigah said in the area of the drug policy change, Ghana had adopted the use of Artesunate and Amodiaquine combination to treat malaria because malaria had developed resistance to chloroquine. "Malaria cases, reported everywhere in Ghana all year round, involved people of all ages but was most dangerous in pregnant women and children under five years.

"In 2004, there were three million cases of malaria in Ghana, out of which 2,000 pregnant women and 15,000 children under five years died. Also, on the average, 25 per cent of child deaths were due to malaria, and 36 per cent of admissions in hospitals in Ghana for the last 10 years were as a result of malaria," he said.

The theme for the campaign is " Lets Come Together to Drive Malaria Away", with the catchphrase "Malaria, Away!"

Major Quashigah observed that the campaign was very necessary because it would help to inform the public about malaria and the new drug policy change, and communicate consistent and uniform messages to all.

It would also complement past and existing efforts of reducing the malaria burden in Ghana, he added.

The minister announced that the Ministry of Health was currently training all prescribers, dispensers and other health care providers in public and private sectors to guard against misuse, adding that, the new drug, which was at the regional medical stores, would be distributed to the districts and sub-districts when the training was completed. The Director of Public Health, Dr George Amofah said the Ghana Health Service (GHS) alternatives available to chloroquine as first line drug, though effective, were more costly, not easily available and with many potential adverse effects.

He said the Service had tried to develop systems to address almost all aspects of the policy implementation issues taking cognisance of the limitations of the other first line drugs and the ever-changing world. Dr Constance Bart-Plange, Programme Manager of the National Malaria Control Programme of the GHS said the new drug policy, was subject to review and was on-going in line with steps recommended by the World Health Organisation.

She said the choice of Artesunate-Amodiaquine was based on its affordable cost, potential for local production and efficacy and therefore, advised users to check their weight and eat well before taking the drug.

Professor Agyemang Badu Akosa, Director General of the GHS, reiterated the use of treated mosquito net and environmental hygiene, with strict avoidance of pools of freshwater to reduce the incidence of malaria.

He urged patients to complete the full doses of treatment to reduce the incidence of the disease. Messages from the WHO, the United Nations Children's Fund and United States Agency for International Development, underlined that malaria was preventable, and called for the monitoring of the use of the new drug.

The campaign materials in the forms of television slots, radio jingles and songs were shown and played.