Background: Increasing resistance to sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine is leading to a decline in its effectiveness. We aimed to assess the safety profile of chlorproguanil-dapsone (CD), and to compare the safety and efficacy of this drug with that of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) as treatment for uncomplicated falciparum malaria.
Methods: We undertook a double-blind, randomised trial in 1850 consecutively recruited children with uncomplicated falciparum malaria, pooling data from five African countries. Analyses were based on all randomised patients with available data.
Findings: CD was significantly more efficacious than SP (odds ratio 3.1 [95% CI 2.0-4.8]); 1313 patients (96%) given CD and 306 (89%) given SP achieved acceptable clinical and parasitological response by day 14. Adverse events were reported in 46% and 50% of patients randomised to CD and SP, respectively (treatment difference -4.4%, [95% CI -10.1 to 1.3]). Haemoglobin in the CD group was significantly lower than in the SP group at day 7, a difference of -4 g/L (95% CI -6 to -2). Mean day 14 haemoglobin (measured only for the small number of patients whose day 7 data caused concern) was 94 g/L (92-96) and 97 g/L (92-102) after CD and SP, respectively. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficient patients on CD had greater odds than those on SP of having a fall of 20 g/dL or more in haemoglobin when baseline temperature was high. Methaemoglobinaemia was seen in the CD group (n=320, mean 0.4% [95% CI 0.4-0.4]) before treatment, 4.2% (95% CI 3.8-4.6) (n=301) at day 3, and 0.6% (0.6-0.7) (n=300) at day 7).
Interpretation: CD had greater efficacy than SP in Africa and was well tolerated. Haematological adverse effects were more common with CD than with SP and were reversible. CD is a useful alternative where SP is failing due to resistance.