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Various drugs are widely used in the prophylaxis and treatment of malaria. In the prevention of malaria in travellers, a careful risk-benefit analysis is required to balance the risk of acquiring potentially serious malaria against the risk of harm from the prophylactic agent. Unfortunately, the information needed to perform accurate analyses of this type is not available for most antimalarials. In the prophylaxis of malaria, chloroquine and proguanil have an excellent safety record, being very rarely associated with severe adverse reactions in the recommended dosages. However, in many parts of the world they are no longer effective prophylactic agents. Pyrimethamine-dapsone (Maloprim) is associated with agranulocytosis, especially if the recommended dose is exceeded, and should be reserved as a second-line agent for travellers to high risk areas. Pyrimethamine-sulfadoxine (Fansidar) and amodiaquine are associated with a relatively high incidence of potentially fatal reactions, and are no longer recommended for prophylaxis. Mefloquine, a relative newcomer, may provoke severe neuropsychiatric reactions with a frequency of 1 in 15,000 to 20,000 users at the prophylactic dosage. In the treatment of Plasmodium falciparum malaria, which has a high mortality if untreated, a greater risk of adverse reactions to antimalarial drugs is acceptable. As chloroquine resistance has become widespread, alternative agents including quinine, mefloquine, pyrimethamine-sulfadoxine, tetracyclines, halofantrine and artemisinin (qinghaosu) and its derivatives may be used in treatment regimens. The therapeutic ratios for chloroquine, quinine and mefloquine are narrow and toxicity is frequent when recommended treatment dosages are exceeded; parenteral administration above the recommended dose range is especially associated with the hazards of cardiac and neurological toxicity.

Original publication




Journal article


Drug Saf

Publication Date





295 - 311


Animals, Antimalarials, Child, Preschool, Female, Humans, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Pregnancy