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As ‘Phase 2’ of malaria drug distribution starts today…

Citizens voice reservations over taking the pills

January 16, 2015 With Patrick Jaiah Kamara

Almost eight months into the worst Ebola outbreak in history, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has announced they would again administer anti-malarial drug – Artesunate Amodiaquine (AS+AQ) – in the Western Area and other Ebola epicenter districts in the country.  Health authorities say the drug can cure malaria, which symptoms could be confused with early stage of Ebola symptoms. The first phase of the free distribution of AS+AQ was in December 2014. Although the officials at the health ministry hailed the success of the drugs, as only 3% of those who took it complained of any side effects, experiences shared by a good many people tell a different story; few persons reportedly died from overdosing while many complained about serious side effects.

Concord Times’ Patrick Jaiah Kamara took to the streets of Freetown to gauge the views of citizens on the second phase of the drug’s administration which starts today, based on their experiences during the first phase.

Arthur Ben Tucker – 94G George Brook, Dwarzark Farm

They said the medicine was good, but it destabilized and disintegrated my health situation. The very day I took that tabs I became very dizzy and sick straight away! There was heavy economic impact on me because after taking the tabs my appetite increased greatly; I used to eat one cup of rice but it increased to five cups per day.

The malaria drug weakened my system and I was terrified that I had contracted the Ebola virus. I was misinformed by the distributors with regards the dose. The physician prescription is one in the morning and one at night. But they told me to take two tabs instantly. Within three days when I took the tabs, I became unconscious for two days. At that time I thought the drug was a ploy to kill citizens because of the way it reacted on me.

Also, according to the radio jingles I heard, one should only take the drug once after every three months. But it is not three month yet since I last took it, so I don’t have to take it again. I am afraid, seriously afraid.

They are contradicting themselves, people expect another distribution at least in February. I am advising that anyone taking the tabs should be very careful because it has serious side effects, especially when overdosed.

Inspector Agatha Florence Heals – Police Prosecutor, Pademba Road Magistrate Court No.2

The AS+AQ was good but it had so many side effects on me. For instance, it made me vomit, dizzy and sick. But after I completed the dose my body became lively, light and well.

In my opinion, people who are seriously sick should not be allowed to take the drug, but the distributors are not explaining to people how to take it. There is largely poor sensitization about how to take the drug.

Many people are illiterate, so somebody needs to take time and explain to them how to take it. Even myself I was told to take two tabs, not realizing that it should be one in the morning and one at night. This is the more reason the medicine negatively affected a large number of people. I am appealing to MSF and the government to supply vitamins or Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS) together with the AS+QA.

[If administered again], well, I will accept it but will not take it for now, because of the way it reacted on me the last time.

Fatmata Kanu – Petty Trader, 5B Fergusson Lane

I received the medicine and we took it as directed by the distributors. The tabs made me and my children fill very weak until I applied ORS.

If I’m fortunate to get the drugs again, I will take it but I must prepare myself better.

I am very thankful to the government of Sierra Leone and the MSF for this initiative because many people mistake malaria for Ebola, as they have similar signs and symptoms. But if this malaria distribution continues we will soon defeat Ebola.

I am of the view that many people taken to treatment centers are suffering from malaria and not Ebola. They end up contracting the virus at the treatment centers. So it is very important for people to take these drugs. Don’t say I’m not sick, just take the correct dose. Together we can fight Ebola.

Sergeant 5115 Margaret Kpundeh, Kingtom Police Barracks

Unfortunately, I never received any malaria medicine because I went to work and nobody received it on my behalf. I am not sure whether any of my colleagues at the barracks received the Artesunate.

You know as police officers, we don’t have a weekend. I am pleading to the distributors of the drugs to visit police stations, court premises and anywhere they could find police officers.

Also, yesterday I heard people talking on the radio that we should drink the tabs instantly. That is wrong; they should not force people to take the tabs on the spot. This can lead to serious allergy that we cannot expect.

Marie Turay, 17H Berry Street

I received the medicine the last time but I didn’t take it because my sister who had received it earlier told me the medicine left her unconscious. Also, one of my brothers got serious diarrhea and headache after he took the drug. This scared me greatly and I thought it was a trick by the government to spread the [Ebola] disease.

But I drank the tabs later after realizing that it can cause no harm.

Willie Lionel Branche – Petty Trader, 30 Benjamin Lane

We received the medicine on time but I didn’t drink it initially, because it reacted badly on my wife. She was in bed for over four days.

I thought my wife was going to die; I instructed my child not to take the drug.

We’ve have been sensitized on how to take it, the distributors visited my home yesterday and told us about the dosage.

I informed them yesterday that I’m not interested in the drug because even the last one is still with me. I am still skeptical about how the drug reacts on people, that is why I have decided not to take it anymore.

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