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Open Access Case study

The story of artesunate–mefloquine (ASMQ), innovative partnerships in drug development: case study

Susan Wells, Graciela Diap and Jean-René Kiechel*

Author Affiliations

Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), Geneva, Switzerland

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Malaria Journal 2013, 12:68  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-12-68

Published: 21 February 2013

Abstract

Background

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) is a not-for profit organization committed to providing affordable medicines and access to treatments in resource-poor settings. Traditionally drug development has happened “in house” within pharmaceutical companies, with research and development costs ultimately recuperated through drug sales. The development of drugs for the treatment of neglected tropical diseases requires a completely different model that goes beyond the scope of market-driven research and development.

Artesunate and mefloquine are well-established drugs for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria, with a strong safety record based on many years of field-based studies and use. The administration of such artemisinin-based combination therapy in a fixed-dose combination is expected to improve patient compliance and to reduce the risk of emerging drug resistance.

Case description

DNDi developed an innovative approach to drug development, reliant on strong collaborations with a wide range of partners from the commercial world, academia, government institutions and NGOs, each of which had a specific role to play in the development of a fixed dose combination of artesunate and mefloquine.

Discussion and evaluation

DNDi undertook the development of a fixed-dose combination of artesunate with mefloquine. Partnerships were formed across five continents, addressing formulation, control and production through to clinical trials and product registration, resulting in a safe and efficacious fixed dose combination treatment which is now available to treat patients in resource-poor settings. The south-south technology transfer of production from Farmanguinhos/Fiocruz in Brazil to Cipla Ltd in India was the first of its kind. Of additional benefit was the increased capacity within the knowledge base and infrastructure in developing countries.

Conclusions

This collaborative approach to drug development involving international partnerships and independent funding mechanisms is a powerful new way to develop drugs for tropical diseases.

Keywords:
Partnerships; Drug development; Artemisinin-based combination therapy; Artesunate; Mefloquine