The use of non-pharmaceutical forms of Artemisia – WHO News release – October 2019
Today, the most widely used antimalarial treatments, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), are produced using the pure artemisinin compound extracted from plant Artemisia annua. Currently, all malaria strains globally can be treated with at least one of the ACTs recommended by WHO.
However, for those living in malaria-affected areas, ACTs are not always readily accessible. In some countries, the medicines are only available at high prices or are of sub-standard quality. These challenges have given rise to the promotion of a range of products made from Artemisia plant material – such as teas, tablets and capsules – as affordable and effective medicines against malaria.
Traditional herbal remedies have several limitations, especially when used to treat potentially fatal diseases such as malaria. The main limitations are related to standardization of plant cultivation, the preparation of formulations, dosages, quality assurance, and evidence of clinical safety and efficacy.
Following an extensive evidence review on the effectiveness of non-pharmaceutical forms of Artemisia, conducted in 2019, WHO has issued a new position statement on this issue with a clear message:
WHO does not support the promotion or use of Artemisia plant material in any form for the prevention or treatment of malaria
This position is based on the following considerations:
- The content of the Artemisia herbal remedies given for malaria treatment and prevention varies substantially
- The content in Artemisia herbal remedies is often insufficient to kill all malaria parasites in a patient’s bloodstream and to prevent recrudescence
- Widespread use of Artemisia annua herbal remedies could hasten the development and spread of artemisinin resistance
- Artemisinin in any form does not work well as prevention against malaria
- Affordable and efficacious treatments for malaria are available
The WHO position is explained in detail in the document “The use of non-pharmaceutical forms of Artemisia,” published in October 2019. »