Tests decrease misuse of malaria drugs in Kenya
The study evaluated whether it was best to provide financial incentives for clinics for administering malaria diagnostic tests or to curb the treatments for patients who had negative test results. When people use malaria drugs without being tested for malaria, it increases the likelihood that the parasite will develop drug resistance to the treatments. This can happen because tests are expensive, and neither citizens nor clinics in the area choose to pay for tests. To resolve the dilemma, some clinics prescribe antimalarial drugs without receiving a diagnostic test.
Eighteen health care facilities were involved in the study, where scientists taught local health care workers how to use microscopy to read samples for malaria. The results showed that treatments given to negative malaria test results fell from 22 to 7 percent. Prescriptions that were given to patients who received malaria tests fell from 41 to 26 percent.
To further address the problem, health officials say there needs to be a more cost-effective treatment for malaria, making the drugs more accessible to the general population. In 2009, Kenya’s government data demonstrated that health care clinics administered 20 million artemisinin treatments even though there were just 9 million cases that were tested and confirmed as malaria.
"All of our frontline therapies include artemisinin," Dr. Wendy Prudhomme O'Meara, the creator of the test and a former Fogarty staff scientist who now works under the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. "The potential impact of artemisinin resistance is huge. We don't really have any other drugs in the pipeline, so if we lose this one, it's a serious problem."