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Artemisinin-based combination treatments have been the mainstay of treatment for falciparum malaria in Southeast Asia for more than 10 years and are now increasingly recommended as first-line treatment throughout the rest of the world.A large multicentre randomised trial conducted in East Asia has shown a 35% reduction in mortality from severe malaria following treatment with parenteral artesunate compared with quinine. There is increasing evidence that artemisinin-based combination treatments are safe and rapidly effective. Artemether–lumefantrine (six doses) has been shown to be very effective in large trials reported from Uganda and Tanzania. A once daily three-dose treatment of dihydroartemisinin piperaquine, a newer fixed combination, was a highly efficacious and well tolerated treatment for multi-drug resistant falciparum malaria in Southeast Asia.Early diagnosis and treatment of uncomplicated malaria with effective drugs remains a priority as part of a comprehensive malaria control strategy. Artemisinin-based combination treatments have consistently been shown to be highly effective and safe. The challenge is to make them accessible in tropical countries.