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Monday, 23 July 2018

Tafenoquine. A new pharmaceutical drug for Malaria

The BBC announced proudly this morning (23 July 2018) that there is a new pharmaceutical drug for the treatment of Malaria. 
  • More good news from our public broadcaster and its health unit?
  • Another wonder drug that will change our experience of another disease?
  • Or just another piece of free advertising for the drug company (GSK)?
The BBC article can be seen here but the information has feature on both television and radio news too. Smitha Mundasad, a Senior Health Journalist at BBC News, wrote the article. She informs us that it is a new drug to treat malaria, it has been given the green light by USA drug regulator, the FDA, and it is specifically for treating "the recurring form of malaria caused by the parasite plasmodium vivax". She states that the condition makes 8.5 million people ill each year, and that this type of malaria is a particular challenge to get rid of as it can remain dormant in the liver for years before reawakening many times.

She goes on to say that scientists have described tafenoquine as a "phenomenal achievement" - a statement she does not question or discuss. She says that the drug can flush the parasite out of its hiding place in the liver and stop people getting it again. There is another drug that can do this, primaquine, but this has to be taken for 14 days. With tafenoquine only one dose is necessary.

BBC coverage did mention that "there are important side effects to be aware of" and mentions people with "an enzyme problem, called G6PD deficiency" who should not take the drug as it can cause severe anaemia. They also said that there are concerns that at higher doses "can be a problem for people with psychiatric illnesses".

Not much to worry about then, certainly nothing that the BBC has bothered to look into, or to let us know about. Ms Mudasad said that the drug "will help reduce the amount of vivax malaria in the world". To support this she quoted Professor Ric Price, of Oxford University

               "The ability to get rid of the parasite in the liver with a single dose of tafenoquine is a phenomenal achievement and in my mind it represents one of the most significant advances in malaria treatment in the last 60 years."

Dr Hal Barron, president of research and development at GSK, was then quoted as saying that the drug "was a significant milestone for people living with this type of relapsing malaria" and that "we believe Krintafel will be an important medicine for patients with malaria and contribute to the ongoing effort to eradicate this disease."

All excellent stuff then. Anyone viewing, listening or reading BBC News coverage will be delighted. Another disease eradicated!

Yet this is what the BBC always does. It is keen to announce new 'wonder' drugs that will eradicate disease, and it does so with stunning regularity. And the BBC never looks beyond what they are told by the drug companies, or by academic staff who form part of the conventional medical establishment. 

In October 2013 I blogged that the BBC was promoting a GSK vaccine for malaria. I wonder whatever happened to that? This is journalism of the very worst kind, lazy journalism, inadequate journalism - fake news?

Malaria drugs are a disaster, and they have been a disaster for decades. Even a BBC journalist might be expected to know this! So I did a simple web search, something I must assume Smitha Mundasad, and the BBC, did not do.

This Science Direct website page mentions the research into the drug, and mentions some of its known side effects. The website outlines the dreadful and serious side effects of Mefloquire (Lariam), which is apparently closely related to Tefenoquine. 

Please read these pages, and compare them to the side effects the BBC has decided to let us know about!

Then, search on, look at the Sydney Morning Herald's article (April 2016) entitled "Australian military doctors were warned about the dangers of using an experimental antimalarial drug on soldiers while in the midst of a coordinated trial under investigation by the ADF watchdog." In this article soldiers state that the drug programme "has scarred them" and that defence documents have "revealed long-held concerns about the drug". Tefenoquine, it states, remains banned in Australia and has been linked to blood cell damage and anaemia.

So the BBC is promoting a drug banned in Australia!

Then look at the Facebook page of the Australian Mefloquine and Tafeoquine Veterans, providing evidence for fraudulent medical studies, the individual stories soldiers have to tell, and the sheer anger that exists within the group towards the pharmaceutical companies that have damaged their lives.

And then move on to the Facebook page of the International Mefloquine Veterans Alliance. which talks of the "Scientific Misconduct in the Australian Army Malaria Institute’s Clinical Trials of Tafenoquine".

Then, if you are not already sufficiently horrified, reread today's BBC coverage. Is it accurate? Is it honest? Does it tell you and me what we need to know about these '...oquine' malaria drugs? 

The BBC is a public service broadcaster, but as far as health is concerned it consistently fails to provide the British public with no 'service' whatsoever - just unlimited, unchecked drug company propaganda. There can be only two excuses for the BBC in not providing us with proper, full and accurate information. Either
  • they do not know about the dangerous nature and history of antimalarial drugs.
  • they do know about this, but have again failed to inform us, the public.
If it is the former the BBC are negligent, asleep on duty. 
If it is the latter the BBC is guilty of gross negligence.