Increasing Access to Subsidized Artemisinin-Based Combination Therapy through Accredited Drug Dispensing Outlets in Tanzania
Background: In Tanzania, many people seek malaria treatment from retail drug sellers. The National Malaria Control Program identified the accredited drug dispensing outlet (ADDO) program as a private sector mechanism to supplement the distribution of subsidized artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) from public facilities and increase access to the first-line antimalarial in rural and underserved areas. The ADDO program strengthens private sector pharmaceutical services by improving regulatory and supervisory support, dispenser training, and record keeping practices.
Methods: The government's pilot program made subsidized ACTs available through ADDOs in 10 districts in the Morogoro and Ruvuma regions, covering about 2.9 million people. The program established a supply of subsidized ACTs, created a price system with a cost recovery plan, developed a plan to distribute the subsidized products to the ADDOs, trained dispensers, and strengthened the adverse drug reactions reporting system. As part of the evaluation, 448 ADDO dispensers brought their records to central locations for analysis, representing nearly 70% of ADDOs operating in the two regions. ADDO drug register data were available from July 2007-June 2008 for Morogoro and from July 2007-September 2008 for Ruvuma. This intervention was implemented from 2007-2008.
Results: During the pilot, over 300,000 people received treatment for malaria at the 448 ADDOs. The percentage of ADDOs that dispensed at least one course of ACT rose from 26.2% during July-September 2007 to 72.6% during April-June 2008. The number of malaria patients treated with ACTs gradually increased after the start of the pilot, while the use of non-ACT antimalarials declined; ACTs went from 3% of all antimalarials sold in July 2007 to 26% in June 2008. District-specific data showed substantial variation among the districts in ACT uptake through ADDOs, ranging from ACTs representing 10% of all antimalarial sales in Kilombero to 47% in Morogoro Rural.
Conclusions:The intervention increased access to affordable ACTs for underserved populations. Indications are that antimalarial monotherapies are being "crowded out" of the market. Importantly, the transition to ACTs has been accomplished in an environment where the safety and efficacy of the drugs and the quality of services are being monitored and regulated. This paper presents a description of the pilot program implementation, results of the program evaluation, and a discussion of the challenges and recommendations that will be used to guide rollout of subsidized ACT in ADDOs in the rest of Tanzania and possibly in other countries.