Malarone vs. Mefloquine – Which is Better for Travel? (Effectiveness, Side Effects, and More)


3 Nov 2023

When it comes to malaria prevention, you have a few different choices.

Two common medications are:

  • Mefloquine
  • Malarone (Atovaquone:Proguanil)

However – they have different levels of effectiveness, side effects and duration of use.

This article compares the two options – helping you stay informed about the medications your doctor might prescribe. Each one has their upsides and downsides, so let’s compare!

What to Know About Mefloquine

Mefloquine is similar to other prevention drugs – offering protection against both bacterial infections and malaria.

It functions by hindering protein synthesis in the malaria parasite, impeding its growth and replication.

Pros of Using Mefloquine for Travel

Like Malarone, Mefloquine provides malaria protection as early as two days before your travel begins.

When used as prescribed, it shows moderate amounts of effectiveness against malaria – although not strong enough to fully rely on it. 

You still need to take strict precautions to avoid malaria, no matter the dose you take.

Cons of Mefloquine 

While Mefloquine is effective, it comes with its own downsides. 

A notable one is the prolonged duration of usage – typically spanning 4 weeks after your travels, a much longer commitment compared to Malarone.

A few other consideration:

  • Be mindful of potential side effects, such as upset stomach and heightened sensitivity to sunlight.
  • These could limit outdoor activities – which is less than ideal for travelers eager to explore the outdoors during travel. 
  • As always, make sure to disclose all medical considerations to your doctor, such as allergies, pregnancy, and other medications you might be taking. 

Regarding effectiveness – it was found to be less effective than Malarone. This is why many doctors recommend Malarone over Mefloquine.

Malarone – A Closer Look

Malarone (Atovaquone:Proguanil) is another prescription medication used to prevent malaria. 

It works by inhibiting the reproduction of the malaria parasite in the red blood cells – a more direct approach vs. Mefloquine.

Pros of Using Malarone for Travel

As mentioned in the link above, Malarone (Atovaquone:Proguanil) has been shown to be more effective than Mefloquine.

It’s often well-tolerated, typically with fewer side effects as well. 

  • It can be started just a few days before travel, and typically only needs to be taken daily during your trip and for 7 days after.
  • You can now get Malarone with an online prescription, shipped straight to your door (normally cheaper than in-person care).
  • This removes the downsides of primary care and travel clinics – such as long appointment delays, pharmacy stockouts, and higher prices for consultation + prescription.

Cons of Using Malarone for Travel

While it’s been shown to provide stronger protection with fewer side effects, It’s also a tad more pricey than Mefloquine.

Plus, if you choose to get Malarone (Atovaquone:Proguanil) using an in-person travel clinic (or standard primary care) – the total costs can reach beyond $200. 

But the good news:

With an online consultation, you can have your prescription shipped & delivered to your doorstep – at a much cheaper cost. Many travelers are now choosing this option, since it’s both more convenient & affordable at the same time.

See price for online prescription with Runway

Which is Better for Travel – Mefloquine or Malarone?

After considering:

  1. The lower risk of side effects
  2. Evidence of higher effectiveness against malaria
  3. Convenience of home delivery via Runway

Malarone (Atovaquone:Proguanil) is often preferred by many travelers. 

With Malarone, you’ll typically only need to take it for 7 days after travel. Mefloquine will typically need to be taken for 4 weeks after travel, which you may find unpleasant.

Final thoughts 

Both Mefloquine and Malarone are potential options for preventing malaria during travel, but they’re clearly different in effectiveness and potential side effects.

Malarone often has fewer side effects, and might be considered more convenient – especially with the option to get it delivered directly to your door (at a cheaper cost than in-person care).

As always, a physician will prescribe you the best antimalarial medication for your needs – after considering medical history, allergies, current medications and travel destination. 

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