There’s growing debate about the provision of ACTs, the artemisinin combination therapies, that are so effective in the treatment of Malaria.
Some, most notably The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm), are keen that such treatments become more readily available and accessible to the poor. One would think that such an aim is a good one, a bit of a ‘no-brainer’ but, as I’m learning, things are not always that easy.
There are others raising concerns, such as:
WHO recent guidelines state that malaria treatment has to be based on diagnosis by rapid diagnostic tests (which are both cheap and readily available). This guideline is ignored by AMFm, which will “train” shopkeepers to distribute ACTs to any parent who requests them.
Historical evidence clearly demonstrates that poor people cannot pay for a full course of cheap medicines. Chloroquine was an effective and cheap anti malaria medicine. Despite its low cost, poor people often bought incomplete courses. This was one of the reasons that (the) malaria parasite developed resistance to chloroquine and now the drug is virtually ineffective. AMFm aims to sell ACTs at a similar price to chloroquine but it is unclear what measures will be in place to ensure that ACTs will be protected from a similar fate.
At International Medical Foundation we are also of the view that treatment must be ‘evidence-based’ and we are seeking to find ways to make this work in our community programmes.
We are exploring how we can work with Village Health Teams in the community to achieve some of the successes seen already in Ethiopia and Zambia, as outlined by Dr Mohga Kamal-Yanni of Oxfam in the blog posting linked below:
WHO used to promote a programme of training community health workers on “integrated childhood illness management”. This meant that trained workers could diagnose and treat common childhood illnesses including pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria.