Combating Malaria though Softgel Technology

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Emmanuel Umenwa

Martins Ifijeh

Malaria is the major cause of death in developing countries especially along the sub-Sahara belt of Africa. It is a disease caused by parasites transmitted to people through bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes.

In 2017, there were an estimated 219 million cases of malaria in 87 countries with an estimated number of deaths related to malaria standing at about 435,000 in the year. The WHO African Region carries a disproportionately high share of malaria burden. In 2017, the region was home to 92 per cent of malaria cases and 93 per cent of malaria deaths.

In Nigeria, there are estimated 100 million malaria cases with over 300,000 deaths per annum. About 11 per cent of maternal death is attributed to malaria while over 70 per cent of deaths in children under five years are linked to malaria.

Several efforts have been made at global and national levels to combat the spread of malaria and reduce mortality. The Roll Back Malaria is an international initiative aimed at reducing to the barest minimum the malaria burden by 2010, this target has remained unchanged almost a decade later.

The initiative was launched in Abuja, Nigeria in 2000. In 2005, Nigeria adopted artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) as first line therapy for uncomplicated malaria. Majority of the malaria drugs are in tablets, caplets, powder and injections.

However, a new technology, Softgel, in malaria drug has emerged in addressing malaria resistance and stop complications associated with treatment of the disease.

According to the Chairman, Chief Executive Officer, Geneith Pharmaceuticals, Emmanuel Umenwa, some of the malaria drugs in Nigeria with the softgel technology are Coatal-Forte Softgel a product of Geneith Pharmaceuticals Company Limited, Amartem Forte softgel by Elbe pharma.

He described it as a combination of Artemether and Lumefantrine which acts as a blood schizonticide and is indicated for the treatment of adults and children with acute uncomplicated infections due to both sensitive and multi-drug resistant strains of P.falciparam.

He said: “A softgel is an oral dosage form similar to capsules. It consists of a gelation-based shell surrounding a liquid fill. It is a combination of gelatin, water, opacifier and a plasticizer.
“Poorly soluble tablets face absorption challenges and at such best formulated as gelatins. Coatal-Forte Softgel eliminates multiple processes of disintegration into granules dissolution and absorption.

“Softgel has lots of advantages over regular tablets or caplets. Wide variety of compounds in the form of semi-solid filling, liquid gel or paste can be delivered in soft gelation form.

“It can also be formulated into various colours, shapes and sizes. Softgel helps to mask odours and unpleasant taste as it is tasteless, odourless and easy to swallow.”

He said softgel has fast disintegration and absorption characters due to the oily nature of the gelation most suitable for Lumefantrine absorption.

“It also readily dissolves in the gastric juices of the digestive tract. In addition, the opacity of the softgel provides protection against ultra violet radiation and light thus providing stability to the product and minimizes the formation of free radicals and prevents rancidity,” he added.

He emphasised that there was a general abuse in Nigeria in the treatment of malaria, adding that with over the counter drugs readily available in chemist shops and pharmacies, people just purchase and take these drugs at the slightest headache, body weakness or anything that appears to be a symptom of malaria, but that this has led to resistance.

He said early and accurate diagnosis of malaria was essential for rapid and effective disease management and surveillance. “High-quality malaria diagnosis can result in significant morbidity and mortality. WHO recommends prompt malaria diagnosis either by microscopyor malaria rapid diagnostic test (RTD) in all patients with suspected malaria before treatment can commence.

On World Malaria Day 2012, WHO launched a new initiative called T3: Test. Treat. Track, urging malaria endemic countries, donors and global malaria community to scale up diagnostic testing, treatment and surveillance for malaria. This global initiative was developed to provide a framework for endemic countries to strengthen these three fundamental pillars of malaria control and elimination.