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Free Content Safety, efficacy and determinants of effectiveness of antimalarial drugs during pregnancy: implications for prevention programmes in Plasmodium falciparum-endemic sub-Saharan Africa

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Plasmodium falciparum malaria in pregnancy poses substantial risk to a pregnant woman and her neonate through anaemia and low birth weight (LBW), respectively, and is responsible for up to 35% of preventable LBW in malaria-endemic areas. Chemoprophylaxis or intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) with an effective antimalarial can ameliorate the adverse effects of malaria during pregnancy. Current guidelines from the WHO recommend that women in highly malarious areas receive IPT with an effective antimalarial. Two central considerations in evaluating drugs for use during pregnancy are safety for the mother and her foetus and effectiveness, which is determined by efficacy, cost, availability, deliverability and acceptability of the drug. These factors may be scored and potential drugs or drug combinations ranked in order of potential effectiveness for use in prevention programmes. The seven most promising regimens are all IPT, primarily because they are more easily delivered and less expensive than chemoprophylaxis. Currently, IPT with sulphadoxine–pyrimethamine (SP) is more likely to have the best overall effectiveness in preventing adverse outcomes associated with malaria in pregnancy. Its low cost, wide availability, easy deliverability and acceptability make it the clear choice in countries where efficacy of the drug remains good. For countries where resistance to SP is rising or already high, amodiaquine (alone or in combination with SP or artesunate) artesunate + SP, chlorproguanil–dapsone (with and without artesunate) and artemether–lumefantrine require urgent evaluation for use in pregnancy.

Keywords: antimalarials; drug safety; drug therapy; malaria; pregnancy; primary prevention

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Malaria Epidemiology Branch, Division of Parasitic Diseases, CDC, Atlanta, GA, USA

Publication date: June 1, 2003


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