Background: Artesunate (AS) plus amodiaquine (AQ) is one artemisinin-based combination (ACT) recommended by the WHO for treating Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Fixed-dose AS/AQ is new, but its safety and efficacy are hitherto untested.
Methods: A randomized, open-label trial was conducted comparing the efficacy (non-inferiority design) and safety of fixed (F) dose AS (25 mg)/AQ (67.5 mg) to loose (L) AS (50 mg) + AQ (153 mg) in 750, P. falciparum-infected children from Burkina Faso aged 6 months to 5 years. Dosing was by age. Primary efficacy endpoint was Day (D) 28, PCR-corrected, parasitological cure rate. Recipients of rescue treatment were counted as failures and new infections as cured. Documented, common toxicity criteria (CTC) graded adverse events (AEs) defined safety.
Results: Recruited and evaluable children numbered 750 (375/arm) and 682 (90.9%), respectively. There were 8 (AS/AQ) and 6 (AS+AQ) early treatment failures and one D7 failure (AS+AQ). Sixteen (AS/AQ) and 12 (AS+AQ) patients had recurrent parasitaemia (PCR new infections 10 and 6, respectively). Fourteen patients per arm required rescue treatment for vomiting/spitting out study drugs. Efficacy rates were 92.1% in both arms: AS/AQ = 315/342 (95% CI: 88.7-94.7) vs. AS+AQ = 313/340 (95% CI: 88.6-94.7). Non-inferiority was demonstrated at two-sided alpha = 0.05: Delta (AS+AQ - AS/AQ) = 0.0% (95% CI: -4.1% to 4.0%). D28, Kaplan Meier PCR-corrected cure rates (all randomized children) were similar: 93.7% (AS/AQ) vs. 93.2% (AS+AQ) Delta = -0.5 (95% CI -4.2 to 3.0%). By D2, both arms had rapid parasite (F & L, 97.8% aparasitaemic) and fever (97.2% [F], 96.0% [L] afebrile) clearances.Both treatments were well tolerated. Drug-induced vomiting numbered 8/375 (2.1%) and 6/375 (1.6%) in the fixed and loose arms, respectively (p = 0.59). One patient developed asymptomatic, CTC grade 4 hepatitis (AST 1052, ALT 936). Technical difficulties precluded the assessment and risk of neutropaenia for all patients.
Conclusion: Fixed dose AS/AQ was efficacious and well tolerated. These data support the use of this new fixed dose combination for treating P. falciparum malaria with continued safety monitoring.
Trial registration: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN07576538.