Primaquine for Malaria

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Primaquine for Malaria


Generic NameBrand Name

How It Works

Primaquine kills parasites in the blood that cause malaria.

You take primaquine as a pill (orally).

To prevent malaria, you take primaquine daily, 1 to 2 days before you travel to an area where malaria is present, and then daily while you are in the area and for 7 days after you leave.1

To prevent relapses of malaria due to parasites that persist in the liver, you take this medicine daily for 14 days.1, 2

Why It Is Used

People take primaquine to kill malaria parasites that may persist in the liver. It is generally only used for people with exposure to or known infection with Plasmodium (P.)vivax and P. ovale.

To prevent relapses of infections caused by P. ovale or P. malariae parasites, you should take primaquine after you leave the area where these parasites are present.

How Well It Works

Primaquine is most effective for preventing relapses of P. vivax and/or P. ovale.

Side Effects

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of primaquine include:

  • Nausea and stomach pain. These side effects can be reduced by taking the medicine with food.
  • Anemia. This occurs gradually in people who take primaquine and gets worse with the length of treatment.

In people who have glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, primaquine can cause a sudden breakdown of red blood cells and severe anemia.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

What To Think About

You need to be tested for glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency before taking primaquine.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.


Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.



  1. Hill DR, et al. (2006). The practice of travel medicine: Guidelines by the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 43(12): 1499–1539.
  2. Freedman DO (2008). Malaria prevention in short-term travelers. New England Journal of Medicine, 359(6): 603–612.


ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerW. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
Last RevisedMay 14, 2012

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