Study finds malaria test decreases overprescription of drugs

Malaria test decreases overprescription
Malaria test decreases overprescription | Courtesy of angelfire.com
The use of malaria rapid diagnostic tests located in registered drug shops in Uganda has significantly reduced the rates of malaria overdiagnosis, a study published in PLOS ONE.  

The finding could lead to a reduction in the prescription of malaria drugs.

The study was conducted by researchers from the Uganda Ministry of Health's Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy Consortium and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Malaria test centers in the study were located only in registered drug shops based in an endemic area in Uganda. The majority of the 15,000 patients who had fevers and visited the drug shops agreed to purchase a rapid diagnostic test when the tests were offered, the study said. The results of the test demonstrated that less than 60 percent of the people had malaria. Typically, drug shop vendors followed the test results, decreasing malaria drug overprescription by 73 percent.

"Our findings show that it is feasible to collaborate with the private health sector and introduce malaria rapid diagnostic tests in drug shops,” Ugandan Ministry of Health Professor Anthony Mbonye, lead author from the study, said. “The next step is to refine the strategy and understand the cost implications of scaling it up in Uganda. Our long-term aim is to provide evidence to help the World Health Organization develop guidance to improve malaria treatment in the private sector."

Drug shop vendors usually treat patients for malaria based on their signs and symptoms without testing their blood for malaria parasites. A patient with a fever could be misdiagnosed with malaria and purchase a  treatment they don't need

"This study shows that rapid diagnostic tests can improve the use of artemisinin-based combination therapies -- the most effective treatment for malaria -- in drug shops, but it's not without its challenges,” London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine Investigator Sian Clarke said. “These tests alone will not improve the treatment of other diseases. We now need to continue working with the Ministry of Health to investigate how to improve our approach and expand it to other common illnesses."

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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

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