5 years ago

Treatment-seeking patterns for malaria in pharmacies in five sub-Saharan African countries

Etienne Audureau, Ben Davis, Joël Ladner, Joseph Saba
Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is recommended as the first-line anti-malarial treatment strategy in sub-Saharan African countries. WHO policy recommends parasitological confirmation by microscopy or rapid diagnostic test (RDT) in all cases of suspected malaria prior to treatment. Gaps remain in understanding the factors that influence patient treatment-seeking behaviour and anti-malarial drug purchase decisions in the private sector. The objective of this study was to identify patient treatment-seeking behaviour in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. Face-to-face patient interviews were conducted at a total of 208 randomly selected retail outlets in five countries. At each outlet, exit interviews were conducted with five patients who indicated they had come seeking anti-malarial treatment. The questionnaire was anonymous and standardized in the five countries and collected data on different factors, including socio-demographic characteristics, history of illness, diagnostic practices (i.e. microscopy or RDT), prescription practices and treatment purchase. The price paid for the treatment was also collected from the outlet vendor. A total of 994 patients were included from the five countries. Location of malaria diagnosis was significantly different in the five countries. A total of 484 blood diagnostic tests were performed, (72.3% with microscopy and 27.7% with RDT). ACTs were purchased by 72.5% of patients who had undergone blood testing and 86.5% of patients without a blood test, regardless of whether the test result was positive or negative (p < 10−4). A total of 531 patients (53.4%) had an anti-malarial drug prescription, of which 82.9% were prescriptions for an ACT. There were significant differences in prescriptions by country. A total of 923 patients (92.9%) purchased anti-malarial drugs in an outlet, including 79.1% of patients purchasing an ACT drug: 98.0% in Ghana, 90.5% in Kenya, 80.4% in Nigeria, 69.2% in Tanzania, and 57.7% in Uganda (p < 10−4). Having a drug prescription was not a significant predictive factor associated with an ACT drug purchase (except in Kenya). The number of ACT drugs purchased with a prescription was greater than the number purchased without a prescription in Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania. This study highlights differences in drug prescription and purchase patterns in five sub-Saharan African countries. The private sector is playing an increasingly important role in fever case management in sub-Saharan Africa. Understanding the characteristics of private retail outlets and the role they play in providing anti-malaria drugs may support the design of effective malaria interventions.
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