New process would make anti-malarial drug less costly

May 23, 2012
New process would make anti-malarial drug less costly

Scientists are reporting development of a new, higher-yield, two-step, less costly process that may ease supply problems and zigzagging prices for the raw material essential for making the mainstay drug for malaria. That disease sickens 300-500 million people annually and kills more than 1 million. The report on the process, which uses readily available substances and could be easily implemented by drug companies, appears in ACS' journal Organic Process Research & Development.

David Teager and Rodger Stringham of the Clinton Health Access Initiative explain that artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) is the most effective treatment for malaria, a parasitic infection that is transferred to humans from the bite of an infected mosquito. Artemisinin, which is used to produce the key ingredient in ACT, comes from Artemisia annua, a medicinal plant grown in China. In recent years, the price for artemisinin has undergone huge market fluctuations, ranging from about $180 to $410 per pound, due to weather conditions and the demand for ACT. Keeping costs down is important because most cases of malaria occur in developing areas in the tropics and subtropics. The researchers reasoned that one way to help stabilize prices would be to improve the current ACT manufacturing process, which consistently yields less of the ingredient than expected. That improvement would reduce the amount of Artemisia annua needed to make ACT.

The new process is much simpler and generates less potentially hazardous waste than the current method. It also reduced the amount of artemisinin required to make ACT, which makes the process less costly. A "semisynthetic" version of artemisinin also worked well as a starting material in the new method. "We are in the process of sharing this procedure with manufacturing partners in our global fight to combat ," say the researchers.

Explore further: New technologies gearing up to meet rising demand for vital malaria drugs

More information: Streamlined Process for the Conversion of Artemisinin to Artemether, Org. Process Res. Dev., 2012, 16 (5), pp 764–768. DOI: 10.1021/op300037e

Abstract
We report an improvement to the previously published manufacturing process for artemether, a key antimalarial drug, utilizing readily available reagents, easily controlled manufacturing conditions, and a greatly simplified workup and isolation. New analytical methods and in-process controls allow for optimization of yield through control of side product formation. A 70% overall yield from the two-step conversion of naturally or synthetically derived artemisinin to pure β-artemether is obtained. This corresponds to a usage factor of 1.35 kg of artemisinin needed to produce 1 kg of β-artemether, compared to the current industry average of 1.59 kg.

Related Stories

Antimalarial drug artemisinin moves into production

July 12, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- A semi-synthetic version of the antimalarial drug artemisinin developed by UC Berkeley's Jay Keasling is moving out of development into full-scale production, helped along by a $10.7 million grant from the ...

Scientists develop new drug treatment for malaria

August 16, 2010

As part of the £1.5 million project, researchers are now testing the drug to determine how the treatment could progress to clinical trials. The drug is made from simple organic molecules and will be cheaper to mass produce ...

New malaria method could boost drug production

February 16, 2012

German scientists have developed a new way to make a key malaria drug that they say could easily quadruple production and drop the price significantly, increasing the availability of treatment for a disease that kills hundreds ...

Recommended for you

Brazilian wasp venom kills cancer cells by opening them up

September 1, 2015

The social wasp Polybia paulista protects itself against predators by producing venom known to contain a powerful cancer-fighting ingredient. A Biophysical Journal study published September 1 reveals exactly how the venom's ...

Naturally-occurring protein enables slower-melting ice cream

August 31, 2015

(Phys.org)—Scientists have developed a slower-melting ice cream—consider the advantages the next time a hot summer day turns your child's cone with its dream-like mound of orange, vanilla and lemon swirls with chocolate ...

Antibody-making bacteria promise drug development

August 31, 2015

Monoclonal antibodies, proteins that bind to and destroy foreign invaders in our bodies, routinely are used as therapeutic agents to fight a wide range of maladies including breast cancer, leukemia, asthma, arthritis, psoriasis, ...

A marine creature's magic trick explained

September 2, 2015

Tiny ocean creatures known as sea sapphires perform a sort of magic trick as they swim: One second they appear in splendid iridescent shades of blue, purple or green, and the next they may turn invisible (at least the blue ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.