Coartem (Artemether/Lumefantrine) and/or alternatives
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General Information on Coartem
Coartem is a prescription medication used for the treatment of non-severe malaria. Its generic name is Artemether and Lumefantrine, and it belongs to the therapeutic class of antimalarial drugs. Coartem is available in the form of oral tablets. It acts by inhibiting the growth of parasites in the red blood cells. The drug is used only to treat malaria, and it cannot prevent the disease. Along with Coartem, your doctor will also advise you to use mosquito nets, insect repellents, and protective clothes to avoid any more mosquito bites.
Side Effects for Coartem
When you start taking Coartem, you may experience weakness, nausea, loss of appetite, mild headache, cough, muscle or joint pain, and sleep problems. Most of these are short-lived and getter better on their own as your body adjusts to the drug. However, some of the serious side effects of the drug may include fainting, severe dizziness, uncontrolled diarrhea or vomiting, dark urine, jaundice, or clay colored stools. If you experience any of these side effects, you should immediately stop taking Coartem and seek medical help. You should also contact your doctor if you suffer from chills, fever, body ache, or severe headache after taking Coartem.
You should also stop taking Coartem if you develop an allergic reaction to the medicine. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, rashes, severe dizziness, trouble breathing, or swelling of the face, tongue, lips, or throat.
Your doctor will not advise you to buy Coartem if you are suffering from kidney or liver disease or if you have a personal or family history of heart disease or Long QT syndrome. Therefore, it would be wise to inform your doctor if you have any of these prevalent conditions. You should also tell him/her if there is a low level of magnesium or potassium in your blood. In such a situation, your doctor will need to conduct some special tests to ensure that Coartem is the right drug for you.
If you are an adult and weigh more than 35 kgs, you will be given 6 doses of the medicine for 3 days consecutively. On the first day, you will be given 4 tablets at a time, and 4 tablets after 8 hours. On the second and third day, you will be asked to take 4 tablets two times a day, which amounts to a 24 tablet course. Coartem has to be taken with milk, broth, oatmeal, or food, and can be crushed for easy swallowing. If you vomit within one hour of taking the drug, your doctor will advise you to repeat the dose.
You should not buy Coartem if you are already taking antibiotics such as erythromycin, clarithromycin, moxifloxacin, or pentamidine, antidepressants such as clomipramine or amitriptylline, heart rhythm medicines such as flecainide, amiodarone, or propafenonem, or HIV or AIDS medicines such as ritonavir or delavirdine. You should also inform your doctor if you are taking drugs for treating psychiatric disorders, migraine headache medicines, narcotic medicines, or medicines for preventing vomiting and nausea. Other drugs that may interact with Coartem include ketoconazole and medicines for treating cold or allergies.
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What is a "Generic" medication/drug?
Generic drugs are medications that have comparable medicinal ingredients as the original brand name drug, but which are generally cheaper in price. Nearly 1 in 3 drugs dispensed are "generic". They undergo testing to ensure that they are similar to their "brand" counterparts in:
- Active Ingredient (e.g. "Pravastatin" is the active ingredient in brand name Pravachol)
- Dosage (e.g. 10 mg of the active ingredient)
- Safety (e.g. same or similar side effects, drug interactions)
- Performance (e.g. 10 mg of a "generic" can be substituted for 10 mg of the "brand" and have the same therapeutic result)
- Intended use (e.g. both "generic" and "brand" would be prescribed for the same conditions)
What this means is that "generic" medications can be used as a substitute of their brand equivalents with the comparable therapeutic results. There are a few exceptions (examples are outlined at the end of this page) and as always you should consult your physician before switching from a brand name medications to a generic or vice versa.
What differences are there between generic and brand?
While generics and brand equivalent drugs contain the same active ingredients, they may be different in the following ways:
- Appearance (e.g. the scoring or markings)
The color, shape and size of the medication come from the fillers that are added to the active ingredients to make the drug. These fillers that are added to the drug have no medical use and do not to change the effectiveness of the final product. A generic drug must contain comparable active ingredients and must have a comparable strength and dosage as the original brand name equivalent. Generic drugs can be more cost effective than purchasing the brand name.
Why do generics cost less than the brand name equivalents?
When a new drug is "invented", the company that discovered it has a patent on it that gives them the exclusive production rights for this medication. Once the patent expires in a country, other companies can bring the product to market under their own name. This patent prevents other companies from copying the drug during that time so they can earn back their Research and Development costs through being the exclusive supplier of the product. After the patent expires however, other companies can develop a "generic" version of the product. These versions generally are offered at much lower prices because the companies do not have the same development costs as the original company who developed the medication.
The main thing to realize here though is that the two products are therapeutically equivalent. They may look different, and be called something different.
How are Generic drugs tested to ensure quality and efficacy?
Generally speaking, the two most generally accepted methods to prove the safety of a generic version of a drug are to either repeat most of the chemistry, animal and human studies originally done, or to show that the drug performs comparably with the original brand name drug. This second option is called a "comparative bioavailability" study. During this type of study, volunteers are given the original drug, and then separately later the generic drug. The rates at which the drug is delivered to the patient (into their blood stream or otherwise absorbed) are measured to ensure they are the same. Because the same active ingredient is used the major concern is just that it delivers the common chemical(s) at the same rate so that they have the same effect. Please note that the methods that the manufacturers use may vary from country to country.