The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm) may be the best idea you've never heard of. It's a piggybank that would accept money from donors of all stripes and then shell the money back out to eligible buyers to help pay for new malaria drugs, specifically artemisinin-combination therapies (ACTs). The goal is to make these new, expensive drugs as cheap as old drugs for the vast majority of developing country consumers, including the more than half who buy their drugs from private-sector pharmacies, shops and drug sellers. As we've pointed out here in the past (13 Pharma Companies Withdraw Malaria Monotherapies, May 12, 2006), the combination drugs are far less likely to promote drug resistance than artemisinin monotherapy. The conundrum has been how to get people to buy pricey ACTs before too much monotherapy makes all Artemisinin-based drugs another hit-or-miss treatment, like so many malaria drugs that have come before.

That's where AMFm comes in: cheap ACTs would drive out cheap monotherapy. At least that's the theory. And if theories could create good health policy, we'd all feel a lot better. The proponents of AMFm are trying hard to keep it from joining the graveyard of good ideas and move it toward reality. Implementation of AMFm is at a crossroads, with what looks like an up-or-down November vote of the Board of the Global Fund, which has been eager to take on AMFm as part of its operations. Opposition within the Board constitutes a minority, but includes the influential U.S. executive branch representative.

Resources for the Future, a nonpartisan Washington think tank, is holding a daylong session to explain the roots of AMFm and to delve into the concerns that remain over its implementation. The meeting is being held on Friday, September 26, at Jurys Hotel in Washington, starting at 8:50 a.m. Attendance is free, but you must register here. The meeting agenda and additional information can also be found there.