Introduction: Severe falciparum malaria stills accounts for around half a million childhood deaths per year in sub-Saharan Africa. Prompt treatment of sick children close to home starting with artesunate given rectally by appropriately trained people can be lifesaving.Areas covered: Rectal artesunate (RAS) has been developed for use in the WHO approved strategy of pre-referral intervention. This review covers the formulation, pharmacokinetics, safety, efficacy, and implementation of this drug. There is little RCT evidence and the only RCT has been controversial. It is unlikely that there will be further randomized studies in the field. There is a concern that the administration of a single dose of artesunate without adequate follow up therapy may encourage the emergence of artemisinin resistance.Expert opinion: Artesunate is an essential drug and RAS is a very useful, potentially lifesaving formulation designed to be quickly administered in remote areas to severely unwell children by non-medical personnel. However, its use needs to be monitored and onward referral for definitive antimalarial treatment ensured.
Expert opinion on pharmacotherapy
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Nuffield Department of Medicine, Oxford University, The John Radcliffe, Oxford, UK.