Prescription drugs derived from the Artemisia annua plant show very limited benefit in improving cancer treatment outcomes.

Artesunate and artemisinin-based drugs at a glance

Prescription drugs termed “artemisinins” are derived from the Artemisia annua plant. They include artesunate, dihydroartemisinin, artemether, artemisone, arteether, artelinic acid, and 10-(4-phenyl-1H-1,2,3- triazol)-artemisinin (5a). Artesunate, a drug approved for use in malaria, has been researched for use in cancer more than other artemisinins. Use is considered off-label or repurposed, as it does not have FDA approval for treating cancer. 

Preliminarysignificant effects in small or poorly designed clinical studies OR conflicting results in adequate studies but a preponderance of evidence of an effect (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) or weakone or more case studies, supported by animal evidence OR small treatment effects of limited clinical significance OR studies with no controls OR weak trends of effects (this is the CancerChoices definition; other researchers and studies may define this differently) evidence shows that these drugs may lead to better cancer outcomes. These drugs require a prescription, can be very expensive, and are unlikely to be covered by insurance for off-label use in cancer.

Compare artemisinin-based drugs to the Artemisia annua plant and extracts available without prescription.

CancerChoices ratings for artesunate and other artemisinin-based drugs

We rate artesunate and other artemisinin-based drugs on seven attributes, with 0 the lowest rating and 5 the highest.

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Improving treatment outcomes

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Optimizing your body terrain

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Managing side effects and promoting wellness

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Reducing cancer risk

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Use by integrative oncology experts

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Safety

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Affordability and access

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Authors

Andrew Jackson, ND

Research Associate
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Andrew Jackson, ND, serves as a CancerChoices research associate. As a naturopathic physician practicing in Kirkland, Washington, he teaches critical evaluation of the medical literture at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington. His great appreciation of scientific inquiry and the scientific process has led him to view research with a critical eye.

Andrew Jackson, ND Research Associate

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Reviewer

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: May 9, 2023

Last full literature review: October 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.