March 2, 2007

Sanofi-aventis and the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) have introduced a new fixed-dose combination malaria drug containing artesunate and amodiaquine -- called ASAQ -- in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Sanofi-aventis said that ASAQ comes as a single, once-a-day pill, and that it will be available at a "no profit, no loss" price of less than $1. The drug will not be patented.

"The fact that ASAQ is made so affordable right from the start and is not under patent removes a significant barrier to its availability and should serve as a model for future drug development for neglected diseases," Bernard Pecoul, executive director of DNDi, said.

Mdecins Sans Frontires (MSF) has announced it will start using ASAQ in its malaria programs. "The fact that the drug is not protected by a patent makes this a very promising model for further research on neglected diseases," Christophe Fournier, an MSF official, said. "Indeed, the fact that the drug is not patented will allow for several sources of production, ensuring price competition and sufficient availability of the drug."

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended this drug combination for use in combating resistant malaria, according to sanofi-aventis. "In manufacturing the drug in Morocco for use in Sub-Saharan Africa and in applying for WHO prequalification, we aim to ensure that ASAQ is made available to patients as soon as possible, while, at the same time, demonstrating adherence to international quality standards," company Chairman Jean-Franois Dehecq said.