This article describes how an "improved traditional medicine" for malaria was developed in Mali. The process is called "reverse pharmacology" because it starts with retrospective clinical observations of patients who were already taking traditional medicines. This "retrospective treatment outcome study" was used to select the plant associated with the best outcomes.

Next, patients taking the herbal remedy were observed prospectively, to select the best dose and duration of treatment, and to monitor safety parameters. After that, a randomised controlled trial was carried out.

Only after confirming the clinical safety and effectiveness of the herbal remedy has the research turned to phytochemistry - as a way of controlling quality and standardisation.

They key advantage of this innovative approach is that it is much less costly and more rapid than classical drug development; and the end-product is a phytomedicine which is both available and affordable to populations in malaria endemic areas.

The full article is published online in Malaria Journal.

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