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Malaria drug muddle

Research community questioning legitimacy of Canadian drug approved for market in Africa

Diane Martindale(dmartindale@writescience.ca )

With one million deaths and 300 million new cases of malaria each year, the quest for a successful malaria treatment is urgent. But one new drug, touted by its manufacturer as safe and exceptionally effective, and already approved for sale by five African nations, is provoking suspicion in the malaria research community. At best, some researchers claim, the Canadian drug Malarex has not been adequately tested for safety or efficacy, at worst, others say, it may be a fraud.

"Malarex is a natural extract, which is a bunch of alkaloids, and the one that is most active is voacamine," explains Leonard Stella, the chief operating officer of Millenia Hope, a small biotech company based in Montreal. "Our goal is to get the product to the people because we know it's not harmful and we know that it works." And since it's a herbal remedy that's been used by "witch...

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