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Measuring the impact of malaria

Evidence from mosquitoes found trapped in amber tells us that malaria has existed for at least 30 million years. Human settlement and population levels were affected by the disease in the Neolithic era, and several disorders such as sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia are known to have evolved as a result of the malarial resistance that goes along with them.

In this context, the fight against malaria can be seen as epic struggle, and the successes of charities, governments and life science organizations in reducing its impact take on an historic significance.

The disease still has a devastating impact today. As this BaseCase map compiled from WHO data shows, certain African states experienced a steep rise in malaria deaths from 2000 to 2010, even as infection rates dropped globally.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one high-profile organization investing heavily in combating the epidemic. With their support, non-profit groups PATH and OneWorld Health were able to announce recently that French drugmakers Sanofi will be ramping up production of artemisinin, the key ingredient in leading (ACT) anti-malarial treatments.

Artemisinin has been used to treat malaria for thousands of years. As early as 168 B.C., records exist of a recommendation to ‘soak fresh plants of the artemisia herb in cold water’ for this purpose. In modern times, vagaries in the production of the crop have created volatility in the price of artemisinin-based medicines, with disastrous consequences for human health.

Now, thanks to a novel synthetic method of production, global prices of ACT drugs are expected to stabilize, and Sanofi* will produce “35 tons this year and up to 60 tons annually starting in 2014, enough to make between 80 and 150 million doses of the treatment”.

Tangible progress of this kind serves to remind us that there is nothing inevitable about an epidemic. Governments and charities have effectively eradicated infectious diseases in the past, most notably smallpox, with the help of pharmaceutical companies.

As recently as 1900 malaria was significantly more prevalent globally, with the disease claiming lives across Europe, Russia and North America. In higher-income nations, aggressive prevention measures and more effective monitoring eliminated the problem during the 20th century. With the help of data supplied from groups like the WHO, there is every possibility that in the 21st century, developing nations will be similarly free from the disease.

About BaseCase Maps

BaseCase maps is a data visualization tool available on the BaseCase platform. It enables pharma market access and medical affairs teams to build interactive geographic tools using health outcomes data.

The feature was developed by BaseCase due to the cost and time-intensity of building dynamic world maps and regional maps using HEOR consultancies.

Typical objects created using BaseCase maps include: a European map with selectable countries for displaying local data (e.g. incidence data for a particular country), and a world heat map comparing treatment costs based on configured assumptions.