Fact CheckHealth

Viral WhatsApp message on banned malaria medicine recirculated from 2017

Claim: Forty-two Malaria drugs have been banned by the European Union.

Viral WhatsApp message on banned malaria medicine recirculated from 2017

Verdict: FALSE. Our findings show this message is from a 2017 news story, and the listed drugs are not used in Nigeria.  

Full Text 

Malaria, a life-threatening disease, is spread to humans by some types of mosquitoes, mostly found in tropical countries. Although dangerous, it is preventable and curable.

The World Health Organization (WHO) noted that its African Region carries a disproportionately high share of the global malaria burden.

Recently, a Viral WhatsApp message announced the ban on 42 malaria drugs by the European Union (EU). The message further warns against drugs that contain Plasmotrin, Artequin, Co-arinate, Arco, Artedar, Artecon, and Dailquin.

Viral WhatsApp message on banned malaria medicine recirculated from 2017
Screenshots of the WhatsApp message. 

This message which has been forwarded many times, was sent to DUBAWA for verification. Public Health is an important issue, and this serious assertion calls for interrogation to ensure the public is properly guided to make the best decision hence the need for this certification.

Verification 

A keyword search led to different news reports by Premium Times, Tribune Online, Daily Post, and Daily Trust in July 2017 on an alleged list of 42 banned drugs by the EU in Nigeria. 

West Field Development Initiative shared the same claim in August 2022 with the narrative that the 42 banned drugs by the EU are still in circulation.

Following these assertions, reports by Premium Times, and the Guardian revealed that the Nigerian Senate investigated the circulation of these drugs in 2017. Still, we found no follow-up report on the findings of their investigations. 

In the same year, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Control (NAFDAC) also clarified that the speculation that 42 anti-malaria drugs banned by the EU were still circulating in the country is a misconception. The agency explained that the banned drugs are oral monotherapies containing single Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, API such as Artesunate as contained in Arinate tablets which are quite different from the recommended Anti-Malaria drugs used in Nigeria.

We also tried to find any document or press release by the EU announcing the ban on the listed drugs but found nothing outside news reports that trended in Nigeria in 2017. 

We visited the website of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and downloaded its guidelines for malaria treatment. This guideline recommends using Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT) to treat adults and children with uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria (including infants, pregnant women in their second and third trimesters and breastfeeding women). 

The WHO-approved first-line ACT options are artemether + lumefantrine, artesunate + amodiaquine, artesunate + mefloquine, dihydroartemisinin + piperaquine and artesunate + sulfadoxine–pyrimethamine. These options are recommended for adults and children, including infants, lactating women and pregnant women in their second and third trimesters.

“Artemisinin + naphthoquinone is also a combination of two relatively old compounds currently being promoted as a single-dose regimen, contrary to WHO advice for three days of the artemisinin derivative. There is insufficient data from rigorously conducted randomised controlled trials to make general recommendations.”

“In both adults and children, parenteral artesunate prevented more deaths than parenteral quinine (high-quality evidence). Artesunate is given as a bolus for intravenous administration, whereas quinine requires slow infusion. For intramuscular administration, artesunate is given in a smaller volume than quinine.”

For more clarity on the Nigerian context, we contacted the spokesperson of NAFDAC,  Jimoh Abubakar,  on the authenticity of these claims and the safety of the listed drugs and components. While he acknowledged our request and promised to take it up and get back to us, we are yet to get a response at the time of publishing. 

After checking for it on the website, we also requested a list of approved malaria drugs from the agency and got no response. 

Expert Opinion

Jeremiah Agim, a consultant at the National Hospital Abuja, said antimalaria is used in Nigeria with some of the listed agents. However, he noted he was unsure if the message addressed the brands or the agents. 

“I don’t know anything about these. Is this message about the brand or Antimalarial with the above-listed active agents or the drugs? I know antimalarial with some of the listed active agents is in use.”

Sunday Idoko, another Doctor at Garki Hospital Abuja, said most listed drugs are not in use in Nigeria. He also revealed that the recommended combination for the treatment of malaria is artemisinin and lumefantrin, Artesunate and amodiaquine, Artesunate and mefloquine and Artesunate and sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine.

“We don’t really use most of these in Nigeria. What is recommended is artemisinin and lumefantrin, Artesunate+ amodiaquine, Artesunate +mefloquine and Artesunate+ sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine.”

Conclusion

Our findings show this message is from a news story that trended in 2017, and most of the listed drugs are not in use in Nigeria. Experts note that the drugs in use in Nigeria align with the WHO recommendations, which do not include the listed drugs. 

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