Although one component of coartem, a drug used to treat malaria is weakening, there are no plans to discontinue its use because its effectiveness is currently undisputable.
The Head of the Malaria and other Parasitic Infections Unit at the Rwanda Biomedical Centre (RBC), Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi told The New Times in an interview that Rwandans have no reason to be concerned since the medication is still effective at a rate of 96 per cent and above.
Dr Aimable Mbituyumuremyi explained that the therapeutic efficacy survey that came to this conclusion is conducted every year to ensure that the medication that is being used to treat malaria is still working.
The latest survey was done in 2018
"We pick a group of patients and follow them up to see how they are responding to this medication and if we find out that it is working well, we continue using it, and if it's not, we switch to new medication," she said.
He said that the survey in Rukara in Kayonza district, Masaka Sector in Kigali City and Bugarama Sector in Rusizi district.
He said that from this research, it was discovered that one of the two drugs that are combined to make coartem is weakening.
Each coartem tablet contains 20 milligrams of a drug called artemether and 120 milligrams of another one called lumefantrine.
Artemether is the one that is weakening.
As a result, Mbituyumuremyi said that this causes delayed parasite clearance meaning that three days after taking this medication, the parasites are not completely wiped out.
However, he explained that even with the slowness of that component, Rwanda has not yet registered any treatment failure.
"In Rwanda, the people that are given this medication and it works well are above 96 per cent. There is no treatment failure that has been registered. As long as medication is working 96 per cent and above, it is considered effective. We only get concerned if the effectiveness goes below 95 per cent," he said.
He said that the government is keeping a close eye on the medication and they were hoping to expand the scope of the patients involved so as to determine what next.
Rwanda has used coartem to treat malaria for the last decade.
Meanwhile, RBC says that the ongoing Covid-19 crisis will not deter the Indoor Residual Spraying (IRS), an exercise aimed at eliminating malaria-causing mosquitoes to a tune of a whopping $36 million.
Indoor Residual Spraying involves the application of a residual insecticide to internal walls and ceilings of housing structures where malaria vectors may come into contact with the insecticide.
The exercise falls between July to June every year and is done in different rounds.
The Ministry of Health says that the national malaria incidence reduced from 401 cases per 1,000-person in 2017-2018 fiscal year to 200 cases per 1,000-person in 2019-2020.