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Primaquine FAQs

What is primaquine?

Primaquine is an anti-malarial medication used at the end of a deployment/trip to a malarious area to kill off any malaria parasites that may be in the body.

Why do I need to take primaquine?

The anti-malarial medications used for prevention are not 100% effective - no medication is. It is possible that someone has been infected with malaria but does not have symptoms while they are taking their anti-malarial medication. When they return home and stop the medication, the malaria can activate and cause illness. This is called relapsing malaria. Primaquine is particularly good at killing any residual malaria that may be present and preventing a relapse of malaria.

What are the side effects of primaquine?

The most common side effect of primaquine is gastrointestinal upset, which can be reduced by taking the medication with food. The most severe side effect, although very uncommon, can occur in those individuals who lack the G6PD enzyme. In these people, primaquine can cause red blood cell problems, leading to anaemia.

What if I can’t take primaquine because I don’t have the G6PD enzyme?

For those people who lack the G6PD enzyme, a personalised risk assessment and anti-malarial program will be worked out.  Depending on the risk, other anti-malarials may need to be taken for a longer time than usual after leaving the malarious area.

Does primaquine interact with any other medications?

Primaquine is not known to interact with other anti-malarial medication. The anti-malarial that was taken on deployment is usually continued while primaquine is being taken. Primaquine should not be given with drugs that suppress the bone marrow or are known to cause red blood cell problems.