Kenya’s battle against malaria has gained new momentum through the widespread deployment of an injectable drug manufactured by the Chinese pharmaceutical company, Fosun Pharma, Kenyan officials said Thursday, during a forum in the western Kenyan city of Kisumu.
Kibor Keitany, the head of the National Malaria Control Program in the Ministry of Health, said that Fosun Pharma’s second-generation artesunate for injection, marketed under the Argesun brand name, has proven effective in treating severe malaria cases.
“The injectable drug is an addition to other existing interventions like indoor spraying, vaccines and deployment of insecticide-treated nets which the country is relying on to achieve zero malaria target in the near future,” Keitany said.
According to Keitany, Kenya reported 6.7 million malaria cases and 4,000 deaths in 2021. The government is actively leveraging enhanced surveillance, timely diagnosis and treatment to combat the tropical disease in the endemic western and coastal regions.
Keitany also emphasized Kenya’s commitment to expanding the use of injectable artesunate, alongside World Health Organization (WHO) approved vaccines, to reduce malaria-related fatalities among at-risk groups, including pregnant women and children under the age of five.
Kenya is one of 18 African countries where the injectable malaria drug is already being used to treat severe cases in children. It received approval from the WHO prequalification team in June.
Yu Jun, the vice president of Guilin Pharma, a subsidiary of Fosun Pharma, said that the artesunate for injection has undergone rigorous safety and efficacy assessments. Its widespread use is expected to be a game-changer in the fight against malaria in Africa.
“In the future, the second generation artesunate will be widely used in African countries to facilitate the treatment of severe malaria,” Yu said, adding that China-Africa cooperation in biomedical research will be key to boosting the fight against vector-borne diseases.
Gregory Ganda, the chief officer for health and sanitation in Kisumu County, said that the development of artesunate for injection drugs is a huge milestone for malaria treatment in the endemic zones of the Lake Victoria basin.
“The artesunate drug has changed the management of severe malaria among both inpatients and outpatients at our facilities,” Ganda said, adding that most of the health centers now provide artesunate injections, which have led to a decrease in fatalities.
Walter Otieno, a pediatrician and researcher with the Kenya Medical Research Institute, said that case studies at health facilities have demonstrated the high potency of injectable artesunate in treating severe malaria in children.
He clarified that the drug can be administered to individuals of all age groups and is capable of clearing malaria-carrying parasites from the patient’s blood within 24 hours.