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Emetine has long been important in acute amoebiasis. The symptoms of acute amoebic dysentery are most effectively relieved by parenteral emetine hydrochloride, though parasites frequently persist unless another amoebicidal drug, such as tetracycline, is given as well. Amoebic hepatitis is treated with emetine hydrochloride injections together with chloroquine by mouth. Unfortunately emetine is rather toxic; and this has stimulated the search for substitutes. Dehydroemetine is closely related structurally to natural emetine and was first synthesised in the laboratories of Roche in Switzerland during work on the synthesis of emetine.1 It is claimed to be as effective as emetine and less toxic. The drug is made by Roche, who do not sell it in Britain, and by Glaxo (Mebadin). Dehydroemetine hydrochloride is intended for injection and the resinate, which slowly releases dehydroemetine, for oral use.

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