Cost-effectiveness information on where malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) should be introduced is limited. We developed incremental cost-effectiveness analyses with data from rural health facilities in Ghana with and without microscopy. In the latter, where diagnosis had been presumptive, the introduction of RDTs increased the proportion of patients who were correctly treated in relation to treatment with antimalarials, from 42% to 65% at an incremental societal cost of Ghana cedis (GHS)12.2 (US$8.3) per additional correctly treated patients. In the “microscopy setting” there was no advantage to replacing microscopy by RDT as the cost and proportion of correctly treated patients were similar. Results were sensitive to a decrease in the cost of RDTs, which cost GHS1.72 (US$1.17) per test at the time of the study and to improvements in adherence to negative tests that was just above 50% for both RDTs and microscopy.
The diagnosis and management of glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency is a crucial aspect in the current phases of malaria control and elimination, which will require the wider use of 8-aminoquinolines for both reducing Plasmodium falciparum transmission and achieving the radical cure of Plasmodium vivax. 8-aminoquinolines, such as primaquine, can induce severe haemolysis in G6PD-deficient individuals, potentially creating significant morbidity and undermining confidence in 8-aminoquinoline prescription. On the other hand, erring on the side of safety and excluding large numbers of people with unconfirmed G6PD deficiency from treatment with 8-aminoquinolines will diminish the impact of these drugs. Estimating the remaining G6PD enzyme activity is the most direct, accessible, and reliable assessment of the phenotype and remains the gold standard for the diagnosis of patients who could be harmed by the administration of primaquine. Genotyping seems an unambiguous technique, but its use is limited by cost and the large range of recognized G6PD genotypes. A number of enzyme activity assays diagnose G6PD deficiency, but they require a cold chain, specialized equipment, and laboratory skills. These assays are impractical for care delivery where most patients with malaria live. Improvements to the diagnosis of G6PD deficiency are required for the broader and safer use of 8-aminoquinolines to kill hypnozoites, while lower doses of primaquine may be safely used to kill gametocytes without testing. The discussions and conclusions of a workshop conducted in Incheon, Korea in May 2012 to review key knowledge gaps in G6PD deficiency are reported here.
Malaria; Vivax; Falciparum; 8-aminoquinolines; Primaquine; Tafenoquine; G6PD; Deficiency; Diagnostic tests
For the purpose of blocking transmission of Plasmodium falciparum malaria from humans to mosquitoes, a single dose of primaquine is recommended by the WHO as an addition to artemisinin combination therapy. Primaquine clears gametocytes but causes dose-dependent haemolysis in individuals with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency. Evidence is needed to inform the optimal dosing of primaquine for malaria elimination programmes and for the purpose of interrupting the spread of artemisinin-resistant malaria. This study investigates the efficacy and safety of reducing doses of primaquine for clearance of gametocytes in participants with normal G6PD status.
Methods and analysis
In this prospective, four-armed randomised placebo-controlled double-blinded trial, children aged 1–10 years, weighing over 10 kg, with haemoglobin ≥8 g/dl and uncomplicated P falciparum malaria are treated with artemether lumefantrine and randomised to receive a dose of primaquine (0.1, 0.4 or 0.75 mg base/kg) or placebo on the third day of treatment. Participants are followed up for 28 days. Gametocytaemia is measured by quantitative nucleic acid sequence-based analysis on days 0, 2, 3, 7, 10 and 14 with a primary endpoint of the number of days to gametocyte clearance in each treatment arm and secondarily the area under the curve of gametocyte density over time. Analysis is for non-inferiority of efficacy compared to the reference dose, 0.75 mg base/kg. Safety is assessed by pair-wise comparisons of the arithmetic mean (±SD) change in haemoglobin concentration per treatment arm and analysed for superiority to placebo and incidence of adverse events. Ethics and dissemination Approval was obtained from the ethical committees of Makerere University School of Medicine, the Ugandan National Council of Science and Technology and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
These will be disseminated to inform malaria elimination policy, through peer-reviewed publication and academic presentations.
Infectious diseases; Parasitology; Public health
Artemisinin-based combination therapies are the recommended first-line treatments of falciparum malaria in all countries with endemic disease. There are recent concerns that the efficacy of such therapies has declined on the Thai–Cambodian border, historically a site of emerging antimalarial-drug resistance.
In two open-label, randomized trials, we compared the efficacies of two treatments for uncomplicated falciparum malaria in Pailin, western Cambodia, and Wang Pha, northwestern Thailand: oral artesunate given at a dose of 2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day, for 7 days, and artesunate given at a dose of 4 mg per kilogram per day, for 3 days, followed by mefloquine at two doses totaling 25 mg per kilogram. We assessed in vitro and in vivo Plasmodium falciparum susceptibility, artesunate pharmacokinetics, and molecular markers of resistance.
We studied 40 patients in each of the two locations. The overall median parasite clearance times were 84 hours (interquartile range, 60 to 96) in Pailin and 48 hours (interquartile range, 36 to 66) in Wang Pha (P<0.001). Recrudescence confirmed by means of polymerase-chain-reaction assay occurred in 6 of 20 patients (30%) receiving artesunate monotherapy and 1 of 20 (5%) receiving artesunate–mefloquine therapy in Pailin, as compared with 2 of 20 (10%) and 1 of 20 (5%), respectively, in Wang Pha (P = 0.31). These markedly different parasitologic responses were not explained by differences in age, artesunate or dihydroartemisinin pharmacokinetics, results of isotopic in vitro sensitivity tests, or putative molecular correlates of P. falciparum drug resistance (mutations or amplifications of the gene encoding a multidrug resistance protein [PfMDR1] or mutations in the gene encoding sarco–endoplasmic reticulum calcium ATPase6 [PfSERCA]). Adverse events were mild and did not differ significantly between the two treatment groups.
P. falciparum has reduced in vivo susceptibility to artesunate in western Cambodia as compared with northwestern Thailand. Resistance is characterized by slow parasite clearance in vivo without corresponding reductions on conventional in vitro susceptibility testing. Containment measures are urgently needed. (ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00493363, and Current Controlled Trials number, ISRCTN64835265.)
Appropriate case management of suspected malaria in Cambodia is critical given anti-malarial drug resistance in the region. Improving diagnosis and the use of recommended malarial treatments is a challenge in Cambodia where self-treatment and usage of drug cocktails is widespread, a notable difference from malaria treatment seeking in other countries. This qualitative study adds to the limited evidence base on Cambodian practices, aiming to understand the demand-side factors influencing treatment-seeking behaviour, including the types of home treatments, perceptions of cocktail medicines and reasons for diagnostic testing. The findings may help guide intervention design.
The study used in-depth interviews (IDIs) (N = 16) and focus group discussions (FGDs) (N = 12) with Cambodian adults from malaria-endemic areas who had experienced malaria fever in the previous two weeks. Data were analysed using NVivo software.
Findings suggest that Cambodians initially treat suspected malaria at home with home remedies and traditional medicines. When seeking treatment outside the home, respondents frequently reported receiving a cocktail of medicines from trusted providers. Cocktails are perceived as less expensive and more effective than full-course, pre-packaged medicines. Barriers to diagnostic testing include a belief in the ability to self-diagnose based on symptoms, cost and reliance on providers to recommend a test. Factors that facilitate testing include recommendation by trusted providers and a belief that anti-malarial treatment for illnesses other than malaria can be harmful.
Treatment-seeking behaviour for malaria in Cambodia is complex, driven by cultural norms, practicalities and episode-related factors. Effective malaria treatment programmes will benefit from interventions and communication materials that leverage these demand-side factors, promoting prompt visits to facilities for suspected malaria and challenging patients’ misconceptions about the effectiveness of cocktails. Given the importance of the patient-provider interaction and the pivotal role that providers play in ensuring the delivery of appropriate malaria care, future research and interventions should also focus on the supply side factors influencing provider behaviour.
Treatment-seeking behaviour; Patient perceptions; Patient-provider interactions; Malaria diagnosis; Malaria treatment; Cocktail; ACT; Cambodia; Qualitative research
Recent studies have shown that Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites in Pailin province, along the border between Thailand and Cambodia, have become resistant to artemisinin derivatives. To better define the epidemiology of P. falciparum populations and to assess the risk of the possible spread of these parasites outside Pailin, a new epidemiological tool named “Focused Screening and Treatment” (FSAT), based on active molecular detection of asymptomatic parasite carriers was introduced in 2010. Cross-sectional malariometric surveys using PCR were carried out in 20 out of 109 villages in Pailin province. Individuals detected as P. falciparum carriers were treated with atovaquone-proguanil combination plus a single dose of primaquine if the patient was non-G6PD deficient. Interviews were conducted to elicit history of cross-border travel that might contribute to the spread of artemisinin-resistant parasites. After directly observed treatment, patients were followed up and re-examined on day 7 and day 28. Among 6931 individuals screened, prevalence of P. falciparum carriers was less than 1%, of whom 96% were asymptomatic. Only 1.6% of the individuals had a travel history or plans to go outside Cambodia, with none of those tested being positive for P. falciparum. Retrospective analysis, using 2010 routine surveillance data, showed significant differences in the prevalence of asymptomatic carriers discovered by FSAT between villages classified as “high risk” and “low risk” based on malaria incidence data. All positive individuals treated and followed-up until day 28 were cured. No mutant-type allele related to atovaquone resistance was found. FSAT is a potentially useful tool to detect, treat and track clusters of asymptomatic carriers of P. falciparum along with providing valuable epidemiological information regarding cross-border movements of potential malaria parasite carriers and parasite gene flow.
Malaria elimination requires a variety of approaches individually optimized for different transmission settings. A recent field study in an area of low seasonal transmission in South West Cambodia demonstrated dramatic reductions in malaria parasite prevalence following both mass drug administration (MDA) and high treatment coverage of symptomatic patients with artemisinin-piperaquine plus primaquine. This study employed multiple combined strategies and it was unclear what contribution each made to the reductions in malaria.
Method and Findings
A mathematical model fitted to the trial results was used to assess the effects of the various components of these interventions, design optimal elimination strategies, and explore their interactions with artemisinin resistance, which has recently been discovered in Western Cambodia. The modelling indicated that most of the initial reduction of P. falciparum malaria resulted from MDA with artemisinin-piperaquine. The subsequent continued decline and near elimination resulted mainly from high coverage with artemisinin-piperaquine treatment. Both these strategies were more effective with the addition of primaquine. MDA with artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) increased the proportion of artemisinin resistant infections, although much less than treatment of symptomatic cases with ACT, and this increase was slowed by adding primaquine. Artemisinin resistance reduced the effectiveness of interventions using ACT when the prevalence of resistance was very high. The main results were robust to assumptions about primaquine action, and immunity.
The key messages of these modelling results for policy makers were: high coverage with ACT treatment can produce a long-term reduction in malaria whereas the impact of MDA is generally only short-term; primaquine enhances the effect of ACT in eliminating malaria and reduces the increase in proportion of artemisinin resistant infections; parasite prevalence is a better surveillance measure for elimination programmes than numbers of symptomatic cases; combinations of interventions are most effective and sustained efforts are crucial for successful elimination.
In Uganda, as in many parts of Africa, the majority of the population seek treatment for malaria in drug shops as their first point of care; however, parasitological diagnosis is not usually offered in these outlets. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for malaria have attracted interest in recent years as a tool to improve malaria diagnosis, since they have proved accurate and easy to perform with minimal training. Although RDTs could feasibly be performed by drug shop vendors, it is not known how much customers would be willing to pay for an RDT if offered in these settings. We conducted a contingent valuation survey among drug shop customers in Mukono District, Uganda. Exit interviews were undertaken with customers aged 15 years and above after leaving a drug shop having purchased an antimalarial and/or paracetamol. The bidding game technique was used to elicit the willingness-to-pay (WTP) for an RDT and a course of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) with and without RDT confirmation. Factors associated with WTP were investigated using linear regression. The geometric mean WTP for an RDT was US$0.53, US$1.82 for a course of ACT and US$2.05 for a course of ACT after a positive RDT. Factors strongly associated with a higher WTP for these commodities included having a higher socio-economic status, no fever/malaria in the household in the past 2 weeks and if a malaria diagnosis had been obtained from a qualified health worker prior to visiting the drug shop. The findings further suggest that the WTP for an RDT and a course of ACT among drug shop customers is considerably lower than prevailing and estimated end-user prices for these commodities. Increasing the uptake of ACTs in drug shops and restricting the sale of ACTs to parasitologically confirmed malaria will therefore require additional measures.
Willingness-to-pay; contingent valuation; drug shop; malaria; rapid diagnostic test; artemisinin-based combination therapy; Uganda; D12; I11
Continued progress towards global reduction in morbidity and mortality due to malaria requires scale-up of effective case management with artemisinin-combination therapy (ACT). The first case of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum was documented in western Cambodia. Spread of artemisinin resistance would threaten recent gains in global malaria control. As such, the anti-malarial market and malaria case management practices in Cambodia have global significance.
Nationally-representative household and outlet surveys were conducted in 2009 among areas in Cambodia with malaria risk. An anti-malarial audit was conducted among all public and private outlets with the potential to sell anti-malarials. Indicators on availability, price and relative volumes sold/distributed were calculated across types of anti-malarials and outlets. The household survey collected information about management of recent "malaria fevers." Case management in the public versus private sector, and anti-malarial treatment based on malaria diagnostic testing were examined.
Most public outlets (85%) and nearly half of private pharmacies, clinics and drug stores stock ACT. Oral artemisinin monotherapy was found in pharmacies/clinics (9%), drug stores (14%), mobile providers (4%) and grocery stores (2%). Among total anti-malarial volumes sold/distributed nationally, 6% are artemisinin monotherapies and 72% are ACT. Only 45% of people with recent "malaria fever" reportedly receive a diagnostic test, and the most common treatment acquired is a drug cocktail containing no identifiable anti-malarial. A self-reported positive diagnostic test, particularly when received in the public sector, improves likelihood of receiving anti-malarial treatment. Nonetheless, anti-malarial treatment of reportedly positive cases is low among people who seek treatment exclusively in the public (61%) and private (42%) sectors.
While data on the anti-malarial market shows favourable progress towards replacing artemisinin monotherapies with ACT, the widespread use of drug cocktails to treat malaria is a barrier to effective case management. Significant achievements have been made in availability of diagnostic testing and effective treatment in the public and private sectors. However, interventions to improve case management are urgently required, particularly in the private sector. Evidence-based interventions that target provider and consumer behaviour are needed to support uptake of diagnostic testing and treatment with full-course first-line anti-malarials.
Malaria; Cambodia; ACT; artemisinin monotherapy; diagnosis; treatment-seeking behaviour; public sector; private sector
Whilst some populations have recently experienced dramatic declines in malaria, the majority of those most at risk of Plasmodium falciparum malaria still lack access to effective treatment with artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) and others are already facing parasites resistant to artemisinins.
In this context, there is a crucial need to improve both access to and targeting of ACT through greater availability of good quality ACT and parasitological diagnosis. This is an issue of increasing urgency notably in the private commercial sector, which, in many countries, plays an important role in the provision of malaria treatment. The Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria (AMFm) is a recent initiative that aims to increase the provision of affordable ACT in public, private and NGO sectors through a manufacturer-level subsidy. However, to date, there is little documented experience in the programmatic implementation of subsidized ACT in the private sector. Cambodia is in the unique position of having more than 10 years of experience not only in implementing subsidized ACT, but also rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) as part of a nationwide social marketing programme. The programme includes behaviour change communication and the training of private providers as well as the sale and distribution of Malarine, the recommended ACT, and Malacheck, the RDT. This paper describes and evaluates this experience by drawing on the results of household and provider surveys conducted since the start of the programme.
The available evidence suggests that providers' and consumers' awareness of Malarine increased rapidly, but that of Malacheck much less so. In addition, improvements in ACT and RDT availability and uptake were relatively slow, particularly in more remote areas.
The lack of standardization in the survey methods and the gaps in the data highlight the importance of establishing a clear system for monitoring and evaluation for similar initiatives. Despite these limitations, a number of important lessons can still be learnt. These include the importance of a comprehensive communications strategy and of a sustained and reliable supply of products, with attention to the geographical reach of both. Other important challenges relate to the difficulty in incentivising providers and consumers not only to choose the recommended drug, but to precede this with a confirmatory blood test and ensure that providers adhere to the test results and patients to the treatment regime. In Cambodia, this is particularly complicated due to problems inherent to the drug itself and the emergence of artemisinin resistance.
Unprecedented efforts are now underway to eliminate malaria from many regions. Despite the enormous financial resources committed, if malaria elimination is perceived as failing it is likely that this funding will not be sustained. It is imperative that methods are developed to use the limited data available to design site-specific, cost-effective elimination programmes. Mathematical modelling is a way of including mechanistic understanding to use available data to make predictions. Different strategies can be evaluated much more rapidly than is possible through trial and error in the field. Mathematical modelling has great potential as a tool to guide and inform current elimination efforts. Economic modelling weighs costs against characterised effects or predicted benefits in order to determine the most cost-efficient strategy but has traditionally used static models of disease not suitable for elimination. Dynamic mathematical modelling and economic modelling techniques need to be combined to contribute most effectively to ongoing policy discussions. We review the role of modelling in previous malaria control efforts as well as the unique nature of elimination and the consequent need for its explicit modelling, and emphasise the importance of good disease surveillance. The difficulties and complexities of economic evaluation of malaria control, particularly the end stages of elimination, are discussed.
Mathematical modelling; Model; Economic; Malaria; Policy; Control
Paul Newton and colleagues propose guidelines for conducting and reporting field
surveys of the quality of medicines.
Plasmodium vivax threatens almost 40% of the world’s population, resulting in 132 - 391 million clinical infections each year. Most of these cases originate from South East Asia and the Western Pacific, although a significant number also occur in Africa and South America. Although often regarded as causing a benign and self-limiting infection, there is increasing evidence that the overall burden, economic impact and severity of disease from P. vivax have been underestimated. Malaria control strategies have had limited success and are confounded by the lack of access to reliable diagnosis, emergence of multidrug resistant isolates and the parasite’s ability to transmit early in the course of disease and relapse from dormant liver stages at varying time intervals after the initial infection. Progress in reducing the burden of disease will require improved access to reliable diagnosis and effective treatment of both blood-stage and latent parasites, and more detailed characterization of the epidemiology, morbidity and economic impact of vivax malaria. Without these, vivax malaria will continue to be neglected by ministries of health, policy makers, researchers and funding bodies.
Artemisinin combination therapy (ACT) is now the recommended first-line treatment for falciparum malaria throughout the world. Initiatives to eliminate malaria are critically dependent on its efficacy. There is recent worrying evidence that artemisinin resistance has arisen on the Thai-Cambodian border. Urgent containment interventions are planned and about to be executed. Mathematical modeling approaches to intervention design are now integrated into the field of malaria epidemiology and control. The use of such an approach to investigate the likely effectiveness of different containment measures with the ultimate aim of eliminating artemisinin-resistant malaria is described.
A population dynamic mathematical modeling framework was developed to explore the relative effectiveness of a variety of containment interventions in eliminating artemisinin-resistant malaria in western Cambodia.
The most effective intervention to eliminate artemisinin-resistant malaria was a switch of treatment from artemisinin monotherapy to ACT (mean time to elimination 3.42 years (95% CI 3.32–3.60 years). However, with this approach it is predicted that elimination of artemisinin-resistant malaria using ACT can be achieved only by elimination of all malaria. This is because the various forms of ACT are more effective against infections with artemisinin-sensitive parasites, leaving the more resistant infections as an increasing proportion of the dwindling parasite population.
Containment of artemisinin-resistant malaria can be achieved by elimination of malaria from western Cambodia using ACT. The "last man standing" is the most resistant and thus this strategy must be sustained until elimination is truly achieved.
Most malaria-endemic countries are implementing a change in anti-malarial drug policy to artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). The impact of different drug choices and implementation strategies is uncertain. Data from many epidemiological studies in different levels of malaria endemicity and in areas with the highest prevalence of drug resistance like borders of Thailand are certainly valuable. Formulating an appropriate dynamic data-driven model is a powerful predictive tool for exploring the impact of these strategies quantitatively.
A comprehensive model was constructed incorporating important epidemiological and biological factors of human, mosquito, parasite and treatment. The iterative process of developing the model, identifying data needed, and parameterization has been taken to strongly link the model to the empirical evidence. The model provides quantitative measures of outcomes, such as malaria prevalence/incidence and treatment failure, and illustrates the spread of resistance in low and high transmission settings. The model was used to evaluate different anti-malarial policy options focusing on ACT deployment.
The model predicts robustly that in low transmission settings drug resistance spreads faster than in high transmission settings, and treatment failure is the main force driving the spread of drug resistance. In low transmission settings, ACT slows the spread of drug resistance to a partner drug, especially at high coverage rates. This effect decreases exponentially with increasing delay in deploying the ACT and decreasing rates of coverage. In the high transmission settings, however, drug resistance is driven by the proportion of the human population with a residual drug level, which gives resistant parasites some survival advantage. The spread of drug resistance could be slowed down by controlling presumptive drug use and avoiding the use of combination therapies containing drugs with mismatched half-lives, together with reducing malaria transmission through vector control measures.
This paper has demonstrated the use of a comprehensive mathematical model to describe malaria transmission and the spread of drug resistance. The model is strongly linked to the empirical evidence obtained from extensive data available from various sources. This model can be a useful tool to inform the design of treatment policies, particularly at a time when ACT has been endorsed by WHO as first-line treatment for falciparum malaria worldwide.
Multidrug resistance has emerged to both Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum and yet the comparative epidemiology of these infections is poorly defined.
All laboratory-confirmed episodes of malaria in Timika, Papua, Indonesia, presenting to community primary care clinics and an inpatient facility were reviewed over a two-year period. In addition information was gathered from a house-to-house survey to quantify the prevalence of malaria and treatment-seeking behaviour of people with fever.
Between January 2004 and December 2005, 99,158 laboratory-confirmed episodes of malaria were reported, of which 58% (57,938) were attributable to P. falciparum and 37% (36,471) to P. vivax. Malaria was most likely to be attributable to pure P. vivax in children under one year of age (55% 2,684/4,889). In the household survey, the prevalence of asexual parasitaemia was 7.5% (290/3,890) for P. falciparum and 6.4% (248/3,890) for P. vivax. The prevalence of P. falciparum infection peaked in young adults aged 15–25 years (9.8% 69/707), compared to P. vivax infection which peaked in children aged 1 to 4 years (9.5% 61/642). Overall 35% (1,813/5,255) of people questioned reported a febrile episode in the preceding month. Of the 60% of people who were estimated to have had malaria, only 39% would have been detected by the surveillance network. The overall incidence of malaria was therefore estimated as 876 per 1,000 per year (Range: 711–906).
In this region of multidrug-resistant P. vivax and P. falciparum, both species are associated with substantial morbidity, but with significant differences in the age-related risk of infection.
Malaria-endemic countries are switching antimalarial drug policy to artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) and the global community are considering the setting up of a global subsidy mechanism in order to make them accessible and affordable. However, specific interventions may be needed to reach remote at-risk communities and to ensure that they are used appropriately. This analysis documents the coverage with ACTs versus artemisinin monotherapies, and the effectiveness of malaria outreach teams (MOTs) and Village Malaria Workers (VMWs) in increasing access to appropriate diagnosis and treatment with ACTs in Cambodia, the first country to switch national antimalarial drug policy to an ACT of artesunate and mefloquine (A+M) in 2000.
A cross-sectional survey was carried out in three different types of intervention area: with VMWs, MOTs and no specific interventions. Individuals with a history of fever in the last three weeks were included in the study and completed a questionnaire on their treatment seeking and drug usage behaviour. Blood was taken for a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) and data on the household socio-economic status were also obtained.
In areas without specific interventions, only 17% (42/251) of respondents received a biological diagnosis, 8% (17/206) of respondents who received modern drug did so from a public health facility, and only 8% of them (17/210) received A+M. Worryingly, 78% (102/131) of all artemisinin use in these areas was as a monotherapy. However, both the VMW scheme and MOT scheme significantly increased the likelihood of being seen by a trained provider (Adjusted Odds Ratios (AOR) of 148 and 4 respectively) and of receiving A+M (AORs of 2.7 and 7.7 respectively).
The coverage rates of appropriate diagnosis and treatment of malaria were disappointingly low and the use of artemisinin monotherapy alarmingly high. This reflects the fragmented nature of Cambodia's health system in remote areas and the reliance placed by these communities on informal vendors from whom artemisinin monotherapies are widely available. However VMWs in particular are an effective means of improving access to malaria diagnosis and treatment. The VMW scheme and the social marketing of RDTS and blister-packaged artesunate and mefloquine have both been scaled up nationally. Case management in the public sector has also reportedly improved. Given recent concerns regarding the development of artemisinin drug resistance on the Thai-Cambodia border, the effectiveness of these measures in reducing the use of artemisinin monotherapy needs to be urgently re-evaluated.
Malaria-endemic countries are switching antimalarial drug policy from cheap ineffective monotherapies to artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) for the treatment of Plasmodium falciparum malaria and the global community are considering setting up a global subsidy to fund their purchase. However, in order to ensure that ACTs are correctly used and are accessible to the poor and remote communities who need them, specific interventions will be necessary and the additional costs need to be considered.
This paper presents an incremental cost analysis of some of these interventions in Cambodia, the first country to change national antimalarial drug policy to an ACT of artesunate and mefloquine. These costs include the cost of rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), the cost of blister-packaging the drugs locally and the costs of increasing access to diagnosis and treatment to remote communities through malaria outreach teams (MOTs) and Village Malaria Workers (VMW).
At optimum productive capacity, the cost of blister-packaging cost under $0.20 per package but in reality was significantly more than this because of the low rate of production. The annual fixed cost (exclusive of RDTs and drugs) per capita of the MOT and VMW schemes was $0.44 and $0.69 respectively. However because the VMW scheme achieved a higher rate of coverage than the MOT scheme, the cost per patient treated was substantially lower at $5.14 compared to $12.74 per falciparum malaria patient treated. The annual cost inclusive of the RDTs and drugs was $19.31 for the MOT scheme and $11.28 for the VMW scheme given similar RDT positivity rates of around 22% and good provider compliance to test results.
In addition to the cost of ACTs themselves, substantial additional investments are required in order to ensure that they reach the targeted population via appropriate delivery systems and to ensure that they are used appropriately. In addition, differences in local conditions, in particular the prevalence of malaria and the pre-existing infrastructure, need to be considered in choosing appropriate diagnostic and delivery strategies.