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Novartis Malaria Pill Shows Promise as Best Drugs Fail

Efforts to develop the first new malaria treatment in 20 years advanced as a pill from Novartis AG cleared parasites faster than the best medicines, potentially providing a solution to the spread of drug resistance.

In a study among 21 patients in Thailand, Novartis’s KAE609 wiped out half the parasites -- a measure of potency -- in less than an hour, according to results published today in the New England Journal of Medicine. By comparison, treatments based on artemisinins, the most effective medicines currently in use, took as many as 7 hours to do the same, a sign of their waning power, according to a separate study published today.