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Artemether – Important Antimalarial Drug


Artemether is a chemical used for malaria treatment, which is especially valuable against some drug-resistant strains of falciparum malaria. The compound is one of the derivatives of artemisinin, extracted from the plant Artemisia annua, the first of the group to be studied in large clinical trials. It has been reported as highly effective against the bloody forms of both malaria-causing parasites P. falciparum and P. vivax and is usually applied in combination with lumefantrine in clinical therapy of malaria. Artemether, unlike other artemisinins, is lipid-soluble. It is approved for oral, rectal, or intramuscular applications.  

According to data reported by the WHO, in 2002 Zambia became the first African country to have officially adopted the drug combination artemether/lumefantrine as first-line therapy in the national malaria treatment guidelines. There is clinical evidence that by 2008, the rates of malaria cases and deaths decreased by 61% and 66%, respectively, in comparison with the 2001-2002 period.

Even more amazing are the results in South Africa, where the number of malaria patient cases and hospital admissions fell by 99% from 2001 to 2003, and malaria-related deaths were lowered by 97%. The data showed that malaria-causing parasites were killed rapidly, with the consequent fever disappearance.

The substance is usually applied in combination with lumefantrine for improved efficacy, including for infections acquired in chloroquine-resistant areas. In the 1980s, Chinese researchers discovered that artemether was also effective against the blood flukes. The following laboratory experiments have confirmed the activity against various trematodes, particularly powerful in their juvenile stages.

Clinical data reveal that artemether decreases substantially the incidence and intensity of schistosome infections. Artemether has also demonstrated considerable anticancer activities. It has been found to kill successfully (cytotoxicity) ovarian cancer cells, human leukemia cells, and pancreatic cancer cells. Artemether possesses analgesic–antipyretic effects, thus relieving pain and reducing fever. To this extent, pharmaceutical applications of artemether embrace a bright ever future. 

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