The William J. Clinton Foundation has announced a pilot program to substantially increase the availability of the most effective malaria medicines through commonly used drug shops in two rural areas of Tanzania.
Throughout Africa, access to the most effective malaria medicines, called artemisinin-based combination therapies, or ACTs, is a critical, under-addressed issue in the fight against the disease. Indeed, half of all malaria patients in Tanzania seek treatment for their illness through private drug shops instead of public health facilities. Due to prices as high as $8 to $10 per treatment, however, most people are unable to acquire ACTs through these shops and/or purchase medicines that have been rendered ineffective by drug resistance.
In partnership with the government of Tanzania and Population Services International, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI) will implement several interrelated strategies for increasing access to and appropriate use of ACTs by the roughly 450,000 people that seek malaria treatment from private shops in the pilot areas each year. Initially, the program will work to lower the price that patients pay for the drugs by as much as 90 percent through a simple subsidy. It also will provide patients with information they need to obtain the correct drugs and use them appropriately. And eventually, the program hopes to improve the quality of services provided by drug sellers. A comprehensive data collection effort accompanying the effort will enable CHAI to analyze the impact of these strategies, and the information will be used to refine the approach and facilitate the design and launch of a national effort.
In addition, the international malaria community, through a Roll Back Malaria Partnership task force chaired by Tanzanian Minister of Health David Mwakyusa, is discussing a potential global subsidy of ACTs. It is expected that the lessons learned from the pilot program will help inform the structure and scope of that subsidy.