Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine is an effective and well tolerated artemisinin-based combination therapy that has been assessed extensively for the prevention and treatment of malaria. Piperaquine, similar to several structurally related antimalarials currently used, can prolong cardiac ventricular repolarisation duration and the electrocardiographic QT interval, leading to concerns about its proarrhythmic potential. We aimed to assess the risk of potentially lethal iatrogenic ventricular arrhythmias in individuals receiving dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine. METHODS: We did a systematic review and Bayesian meta-analysis. We searched clinical bibliographic databases (last on May 24, 2017) for studies of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine in human beings. Further unpublished studies were identified with the WHO Evidence Review Group on the Cardiotoxicity of Antimalarials. We searched for articles containing "dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine" as title, abstract, or subject heading keywords, with synonyms and variant spellings as additional search terms. We excluded animal studies, but did not apply limits on language or publication date. Eligible studies were prospective, randomised, controlled trials or cohort studies in which individuals received at least one 3-day treatment course of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine for mass drug administration, preventive therapy, or case management of uncomplicated malaria, with follow-up over at least 3 days. At least two independent reviewers screened titles, abstracts, and full texts, agreed study eligibility, and extracted information about study and participant characteristics, adverse event surveillance methodology, dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine exposures, loss-to-follow up, and any deaths after dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine treatment into a standardised database. The risk of sudden unexplained death after dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine with 95% credible intervals (CI) generated by Bayesian meta-analysis was compared with the baseline rate of sudden cardiac death. FINDINGS: Our search identified 94 eligible primary studies including data for 197 867 individuals who had received dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine: 154 505 in mass drug administration programmes; 15 188 in 14 studies of repeated courses in preventive therapies and case management of uncomplicated malaria; and 28 174 as single-course treatments of uncomplicated malaria in 76 case-management studies. There was one potentially drug-related sudden unexplained death: a healthy woman aged 16 in Mozambique who developed heart palpitations several hours after the second dose of dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine and collapsed and died on the way to hospital (no autopsy or ECG was done). The median pooled risk estimate of sudden unexplained death after dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine was 1 in 757 950 (95% CI 1 in 2 854 490 to 1 in 209 114). This risk estimate was not higher than the baseline rate of sudden cardiac death (0·7-11·9 per 100 000 person-years or 1 in 1 714 280 to 1 in 100 835 over a 30-day risk period). The risk of bias was low in most studies and unclear in a few. INTERPRETATION: Dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine was associated with a low risk of sudden unexplained death that was not higher than the baseline rate of sudden cardiac death. Concerns about repolarisation-related cardiotoxicity need not limit its current use for the prevention and treatment of malaria. FUNDING: Wellcome Trust, UK Medical Research Council, WHO, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and University of Oxford.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Infect Dis

Publication Date





913 - 923


Adolescent, Animals, Antimalarials, Artemisinins, Bayes Theorem, Cause of Death, Cohort Studies, Drug Therapy, Combination, Female, Humans, Malaria, Mozambique, Prospective Studies, Quinolines