Sunday, 24 July 2011

MALARIA: Tanzania: Yes, Reduce Prices of Malaria Drugs

The Citizen (Dar es Salaam) : 14 July 2011

Researchers have come up with the shocking revelation that nearly a million people die from malaria worldwide each year because they cannot afford the most effective treatment and instead often buy old drugs to which the malaria parasite has become resistant.
A study of six high-risk nations by Populations Services International Malaria shows that Artemisinin combination therapy, or ACT, drugs made by firms such as Novartis and Sanofi-Aventis can cost as much as 65 times the daily minimum wage in some African countries.
ACTs can cost up to $11 (Sh15,000) to patients buying over the counter, while older to less effective drugs cost just 30 US cents (Sh500). This explains why malaria is still a major killer in developing countries, including Tanzania, despite the proven efficacy of ACTs in treating the disease.
In Tanzania, prices of ACTs dispensed at public dispensaries and hospitals are subsidised by up to 90 per cent, but the drugs are sometimes not readily available at such facilities due to various reasons. In such a situation, patients are left to choose between facing the consequences of the disease and buying the drugs at private pharmacies for anything between Sh10,000 and Sh15,000 per dose.
According to official estimates, half of Tanzania's population lives on less than a dollar (Sh1,300) a day, and it's easy to see why malaria remains a major problem in the country. The irony here is that the most effective malaria treatment is still out of the reach of the vast majority of Tanzanians.
This is why we fully support the $225 million (Sh293 billion) Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria (AMFm) subsidy scheme launched in April by the Global Fund to fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and which aims to drastically cut the price of ACTs in poorer nations.
It is hoped that the scheme will slash ACT prices to about 20 to 50 US (Sh260 to Sh650), and it's heartening to note that Tanzania is among 11 countries to which the plan is being offered, others being Benin, Cambodia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Niger.

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