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While the study is not the first to assess the quality of antimalarials in Africa, it is the most rigorous and complete. Similar failure rates were found in previous work, but those did not focus specifically on artemisinin-based drugs.
"I am alarmed by these results because it means there are many cases of malaria that are being only partially treated, and that just guarantees acceleration of artemisinin drug resistance," said Rachel Nugent, deputy director for Global Health at the Center for Global Development, a U.S. think tank. "It is the most comprehensive study out there on antimalarials and should be a wake-up call."
Nugent was not involved in the study.
In all three countries, the antimalarial brands collected from various areas and sectors tended to either do well across the board or poorly, which could prove helpful for governments working to ban low-grade drugs.
Results from the other countries surveyed -- Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria and Tanzania -- have not yet been publicly released by the WHO. But Clive Ondari, who worked on the study for the WHO in Geneva, said failure rates in three of those countries were also significantly high.
Ghana has already withdrawn more than 20 drugs from the market after receiving the initial results, Lukulay said.
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