Pfizer has signed a deal to market Sigma-Tau’s investigational malaria treatment Eurartesim in Africa.

Eurartesim (dihydroartemisinin/piperaquine)is in Phase III and aims to treat uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in adults and children, while reducing the potential for re-infection. It was developed jointly by Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV) and Sigma-Tau, and is expected to be filed with European and US regulators who have both granted it orphan drug status.

Under the terms of the agreement and following applicable regulatory approvals, Pfizer will market the drug in the public and private sectors locally in Africa, and Sigma-Tau will be responsible for the institutional sector. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Ugo Di Francesco, Sigma-Tau’s chief executive, said that by combining the Italian firm’s resources and expertise with Pfizer, “we are confident we will powerfully tackle one of the greatest public health threats of all time". Chris Hentschel, president of MMV, noted that currently, quality artemisinin-based combination therapies “are practically non-existent in the private market in Africa, where many people get their anti-malarials". He added that the Pfizer/Sigma-Tau alliance “has the potential to make a huge impact in getting this life-saving medicine to those in need”.

The World Health Organization estimates that there were 881,000 deaths worldwide due to malaria in 2006, of which more than 90% occurred in Africa.