Countries must use a new malaria pill responsibly to prevent people from developing resistance and to maintain the drug's promising benefits, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
Malaria kills nearly 2 million people a year in poor countries.
"We have very good evidence that countries that have introduced artesiminin-based drugs, when they use it correctly, can drastically reduce malaria," said Pascal Ringwald, a WHO medical officer.
But he said, "We must not make the same mistakes as in the past by using ACTs (artesiminin-based combination therapies) in non-proper ways."
Drug resistance is one of the main challenges frustrating the effort to fight malaria. In recent decades drugs have become increasingly ineffective as the blood parasite has evolved to outsmart them.
Health experts are now pinning their hopes on artemisinin, a sweet wormwood plant, for which no resistance has been reported. Since 2001, WHO has recommended ACTs using the classic malaria medications together with an artemisinin-based newer drug. More than 50 countries have switched to ACTs.
Ringwald called on countries to boycott counterfeit drugs, which may be formulated incorrectly and prolong the illness, and to closely monitor patients so that they complete the full treatment over several days although their fever may go down within a few hours.