Saying his patience is running out, Ramsammy stated that he would be forced to take such an extreme measure as the single dose drug poses a risk to the malaria fight since there is a resistance to the combination that has been developed.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had earlier this year warned against the single dose being used as resistance has been detected.
Ramsammy, speaking to reporters during a press briefing earlier this week, said he would be forced to go to Parliament and gazette the removal of the drug from the shelves. He pointed out that because the drug is easy to obtain the pharmacies are importing it in bulk and he hinted that he may also have to seek to restrict the importation of the drug.
“The risk is very high and the private sector is not adhering to the rule,” the minister said. He said artemisinin has to be used along with other drugs.
WHO officials first noticed evidence of artemisinin resistance in Cambodia and Thailand after receiving reports about increases in clearance times in patients with malaria treated with artemisinin. The combination is designed to kill the parasites within 24 to 48 hours but it was found that it sometimes takes four or five days to kill them. Some studies indicated that half of the parasites are not killed within 72 hours after the beginning of treatment, which points to a growing resistance problem.”
Meanwhile, the minister said that the country is at a “very difficult place” in the malaria fight as progress is being threatened by transit mining communities in the interior. The minister said that miners from the coastland and other areas set up mining communities which are mostly mobile making it difficult for the ministry’s health workers to reach them and malaria infection among them is on the rise.
The minister indicated that more than 90% of the malaria cases countrywide emanate from the transit communities and this is something that would have to be addressed.
He also said that the ministry would also have to investigate the growing health risk, not just in connection with malaria but also HIV and tuberculosis, and the setting up of kayamoos in the interior. Kayamoos are barrack-like accommodations for prostitutes that are set up in mining camps.
Karanchand Krishnalall, Chief Inspector at the Vector Control Unit of the Health Ministry, had recently pointed out that there is a swell in the numbers of persons infected with malaria. Both he and the minister had revealed that the number of cases this year exceeded the target for keeping malaria under 10,000. Krishnalall had said that the figures are likely to point to some 11,000 cases by year end but a more aggressive campaign is being fought to reach more people. For the year so far some 102,201 smears were taken and tested for malaria and around the same time last year the number was 98,000. As of last month 8,467 malaria cases were on file–a slight increase from last year of about 200 cases. The majority of the cases are falciparum, which is the most dangerous type of malaria, followed by vivax.