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Plan to produce synthetic anti-malaria drug criticized as “assault on farmers”

A decades’-long struggle to produce a synthetic version of one the world’s favored drugs for treating malaria, artemisinin, was celebrated as a victory for poor people. But now is being criticized as an assault on poor farmers. Global supply of artemisinin, which until now has been produced from harvest of the plant sweet wormwood, has been erratic in both quantity and supply. Hundreds of millions of people fall ill with malaria every year with an estimated 650,000 deaths — mostly in children.

The goal of this project, led by Seattle-based PATH in collaboration with the French drug firm Sanofi, was to supplement the global supply with this synthetic version. PATH officials told me that Sanofi’s ultimate production goal would likely only meet one-third of the global need, but the scientist who developed the synthetic drug said the goal is to totally replace dependence on the natural crop.

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PATH & Sanofi start major production of synthetic anti-malaria drug

Malaria remains one of the world’s biggest killers and also a massive economic drag on poor countries, poor families. One of our best weapons against this scourge is a drug known as artemisinin, which is harvested from the plant sweet wormwood and, as a crop, is about as predictable as corn or hog futures.A major new initiative to be launched tomorrow in Italy by Seattle-based PATH in collaboration with the French drug maker Sanofi aims to do industrial production of synthetic artemisinin.

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Panama seeks to cash in on medical tourism boom

Panama City, Panama – With double-digit economic growth, canal expansion, subway construction, and an ever-thickening bristle of glass towers, Panama City is on the verge. Among those positioned to capitalize on Panama’s vision as a thriving “hub of the Americas” are the city’s four major private hospitals, variously boasting the latest, first, largest, and best in technologies, design, credentials, and affiliations. Panama is one of a growing number of countries exploring medical tourism as a promising import.

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Drug industry loses in India – fight over ‘patents vs poor’ to continue

The Indian Supreme Court has rejected a drug patent application by the international pharmaceutical firm Novartis, an event that merited coverage by the New York Times, BBC and many other media – news which you might think is mostly a matter for the business page or drug industry insiders. In fact, the case may represent one of the most difficult dilemmas in global health. It is a fight that is far from over.

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‘We Day’ in Seattle inspires youth, makes pitch for Free the Children enterprise

It was inspirational, and fun, to see all those kids jumping up and down with enthusiasm for doing something aimed at helping others. These kind of events can plant a good seed, overcome indifference and perhaps create another young humanitarian entrepreneur who launches a venture aimed at righting a wrong somewhere in the world. But the business side of this group raises some questions.

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