Malaria Home > Primaquine

A healthcare provider may prescribe primaquine to help prevent a relapse of malaria. This medication comes in tablet form and is usually taken once a day for 14 days after leaving a malaria area. Unlike most antimalarial medications that kill the malaria parasites in the blood, this medicine kills the parasites in the liver. Possible side effects include nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

What Is Primaquine?

Primaquine phosphate is a prescription medication licensed to treat certain types of malaria infections. Specifically, it is used to prevent a malaria relapse, or return of malaria.
 
(Click What Is Primaquine Used For? for more information, including possible off-label uses.)
 

Who Makes This Medication?

Primaquine is made by sanofi-aventis U.S., LLC.
 

How Does Primaquine Work?

When a person becomes infected with malaria, the malaria parasites travel to the liver to mature. Once mature, they enter the blood, where they cause symptoms. Some types of malaria infections can stay in the liver for months, or even years, and cause repeated relapses, or return of symptoms.
 
While most antimalarial medications only kill the malaria parasites in the blood, primaquine kills the parasites in the liver, preventing the return of malaria.
 

When and How to Take It

Some general considerations for taking primaquine include the following:
 
  • Primaquine comes in tablet form. It is usually taken once a day for 14 days, with another antimalarial medication.
     
  • This medicine may be taken with or without food. However, it is usually taken with food to help prevent stomach upset.
     
  • Primaquine is normally given after leaving a malaria area to prevent malaria relapse. You may receive other antimalarial medications to take while you are in the malaria area.
     
  • Although this medication can be crushed, it is extremely bitter tasting. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possible solutions to this problem if you have difficulty swallowing the tablets.
     
  • Make sure to take your dose at the same time each day to keep an even level of the medication in your bloodstream.
     
  • Make sure you continue to take this medication for the full treatment course, even if you start to feel better. Not finishing the medicine may cause your malaria to return.
     
  • For the medication to work properly, it must be taken as prescribed.
     
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
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