Drug interactions with antimalarial medications in older travelers: a clinical guide

J Travel Med. 2020 Feb 3;27(1):taz089. doi: 10.1093/jtm/taz089.


Increasingly older adults are traveling to international destinations with malaria as a present risk. Surveillance systems indicate that older adults are more likely to suffer severe complications from malaria. The role of health care providers in selecting an appropriate medication for chemoprophylaxis or treatment of malaria in adults becomes more difficult as older adults undergo physiologic changes that alter the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic nature of medications potentially causing increased drug interactions, adverse events and altered drug action. A comprehensive literature search from 1970 to present, with a focus on the past 10 years, was conducted on drug interactions, pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic effects on antimalarials in adults. It was determined that due to pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic changes in older adults, especially renal and cardiovascular, special attention should be given to this population of travelers in order to minimize the likelihood of adverse events or altered drug efficacy. Antimalarial drug-disease interactions in older adults can occur more often due to QT prolongation, exacerbation of hypoglycemia, decreased renal elimination and decreased hepatic metabolism. Older antimalarials have well-documented drug-drug interactions. Tafenoquine, a new antimalarial, requires glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase screening like primaquine and monitoring of new potential drug interaction with MATE1 and OCT2 substrates. While drug-drug interactions in older travelers may occur more often as a result of polypharmacy, data did not indicate adverse reactions or decreased drug efficacy is greater compared with younger adults. Overall, with the exception of recently approved tafenoquine, much is known about antimalarial drug and disease interactions, but new drugs are always being approved, requiring travel health providers to understand the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of antimalarial drugs to predict the impact on safety and efficacy in travelers. This guide provides travel health providers with valuable insights on potential outcomes associated with drug interactions in adults and recommended monitoring or drug regimen modification.

Keywords: Older traveler; QT prolongation; artemether; artemisinins; artesunate; atovaquone-proguanil; chloroquine; doxycycline; hepatic enzyme induction; mefloquine; primaquine; tafenoquine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors*
  • Aging / physiology
  • Antimalarials / adverse effects*
  • Antimalarials / pharmacokinetics
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / prevention & control*
  • Risk Factors
  • Travel*


  • Antimalarials