Recent Journal Articles by Martha Embrey

Uganda’s Ministry of Health in 2012 implemented a comprehensive strategy (SPARS) to build medicines management capacity in public sector health facilities. The approach includes supportive supervision. This structured observational study assesses supportive supervision competency among medicines management supervisors (MMS). The study used structured observations of two groups of five purposely selected MMS—one group supervising facilities with greater medicines management improvement during one year of SPARS and one group with less improvement, based on quantitative metrics. Our results suggest that MMS’ supportive supervision competency is positively related to the SPARS effectiveness scores of the facilities they supervise. We recommend strategies to strengthen supportive supervision behaviors and skills.

We implemented a group randomized controlled trial in 24 reproductive and child health clinics in eight districts in Mbeya region. Three months pre-intervention, we identified 1924 and 1226 patients established on antiretroviral therapy for six months or more in intervention and control clinics, respectively, of whom 83.4% and 86.9% had one or more post-intervention visits. The unadjusted rate of missed visits declined from 36.5% to 34.4% in intervention clinics and increased from 38.9% to 45.5% in control clinics following the intervention. Interrupted time series analyses demonstrated a net decrease of 13.7% (95% CI [-15.4,-12.1]) for missed visits at six months post-intervention. Similar differential changes were observed for visits missed by 3, 7, 15, or 60 days. Appointment-tracking and community outreach significantly improved appointment-keeping for women on antiretroviral therapy. The facility staff controlled their workload better, identified missing patients rapidly, and worked with existing community organizations. There is now enough evidence to scale up this approach to all antiretroviral therapy and Option B+ reproductive and child health clinics in Tanzania as well as to evaluate the intervention in medical clinics that treat other chronic health conditions.

An intervention brought together community health workers, health facility staff, and accredited drug dispensing outlet (ADDO) dispensers to improve maternal and newborn health through a mechanism of collaboration and referral. Relationships among the three levels of care improved after the linkage intervention, especially for ADDO dispensers and health facility staff who previously had no formal communication pathway. The study participants' perceptions of success included improved knowledge of case management and relationships among the three levels of care, more timely access to care, increased numbers of patients/customers, more meetings between community health workers and health facility staff, and a decrease in child and maternal mortality.

In Tanzania, a public-private partnership launched in 2003 used an accreditation approach to improve access to quality medicines and pharmaceutical services in underserved areas. The government scaled up the accredited drug dispensing outlet (ADDO) program nationally, with over 9,000 shops now accredited. This study assessed the relationships between community members and their sources of health care and medicines, particularly antimicrobials, with a specific focus on the role ADDOs play in the health care system. We surveyed 1,185 households and audited 96 ADDOs and 84 public/nongovernmental health facilities using a list of 17 tracer drugs. To determine practices in health facilities, we interviewed 1,365 exiting patients. To assess dispensing practices, mystery shoppers visited 306 ADDOs presenting one of three scenarios (102 each) about a child’s respiratory symptoms. Of 614 household members with a recent acute illness, 73% sought outside care-30% at a public facility and 31% at an ADDO. However, people bought medicines more often at ADDOs no matter who recommended the treatment; of the 581 medicines that people had received, 49% came from an ADDO. ADDO dispensers are trained to refer complicated cases to a health facility, and notably, 99% of mystery shoppers presenting a pneumonia scenario received an antimicrobial (54%), a referral (90%), or both (45%), which are recommended practices for managing pediatric pneumonia. However, one-third of the dispensers needlessly sold antibiotics for cold symptoms, and 85% sold an antibiotic on request. In addition, the pneumonia scenario elicited more advice on handling the illness than the cold symptoms scenario (61% vs. 15%; p<0.0001), but overall, only 44% of the dispensers asked any of the shoppers about danger signs potentially associated with pneumonia in a child. Poor prescribing in health facilities, poor dispensing at ADDOs, and inappropriate patient demand continue to contribute to inappropriate medicines use. Therefore, while accreditation has attempted to address the quality of pharmaceutical services in private sector drug outlets, efforts to improve access to and use of medicines in Tanzania need to target ADDOs, public/nongovernmental health facilities, and the public to be effective.

The purpose of this study was to investigate the quality of a select group of medicines sold in accredited drug dispensing outlets (ADDOs) and pharmacies in different regions of Tanzania as part of an in-depth cross-sectional assessment of community access to medicines and community use of medicines. We collected 242 samples of amoxicillin trihydrate, artemether-lumefantrine (ALu), co-trimoxazole, ergometrine maleate, paracetamol, and quinine from selected ADDOs and pharmacies in Mbeya, Morogoro, Singida, and Tanga regions. The analysis included physical examination and testing with validated analytical techniques. The physical examination of samples revealed no defects in the solid and oral liquid dosage forms, but unusual discoloration in an injectable solution, ergometrine maleate. Over 90% of the medicines sold in ADDOs and pharmacies met quality standards. Policy makers need to reconsider ergometrine maleate’s place on the list of medicines that ADDOs are allowed to dispense, by either substituting a more temperature-stable therapeutically equivalent product or requiring those sites to have refrigerators, which is not a feasible option for rural Tanzania.

In 2003, the government  of Tanzania introduced the accredited drug dispensing outlet (ADDO) program to improve access to good-quality medicines in rural and peri-urban areas that have frequent drug shortages in public health facilities and few or no registered pharmacies. However, increasing access may also contribute to antimicrobial resistance (AMR) due to the potential overuse and misuse of drugs. We conducted a cross-sectional household survey in four regions in mainland Tanzania to characterize consumer care-seeking habits and medicines use and to determine the extent to which members of the community are knowledgeable about antimicrobials and AMR. We revealed that communities in the four regions have low levels of knowledge of the concepts of antimicrobials and their use and AMR. Level of public understanding rose with wealth status and education. Only one-third of 1,200 respondents (33.6%) had ever heard of a medicine called an antimicrobial, and 5–15% could name at least one antimicrobial spontaneously. Some thought other medicines, such as paracetamol, were antimicrobial (7.5%). People were equally likely to agree that pneumonia should be treated with an antimicrobial (21.4%) as well as common cold (28.4%). Understanding of AMR risks was better, particularly related to HIV and AIDS (32.2%) and malaria (38.6%)—most likely due to information campaigns focused on those two diseases. The level of knowledge decreased the further away respondents lived from an ADDO and where ADDO density was lower, which supports the use of ADDO dispensers as sources of community information and change agents for more appropriate medicine use. Lack of knowledge about antimicrobials and AMR in Tanzanian communities needs to be addressed through multi-pronged strategies that focus on prescribers and the public— especially those who are poorer and less educated.

Uganda introduced a multipronged intervention, the supervision, performance assessment, and recognition strategy (SPARS), to improve medicines management (MM) in public and not-for-profit health facilities. This paper, the first in a series, describes the SPARS intervention and reports on the MM situation in Uganda before SPARS (baseline).

In recent years, new global initiatives responding to the AIDS crisis have dramatically affected—and often significantly improved—how developing countries procure, distribute, and manage pharmaceuticals. A number of developments related to treatment scale-up, initially focused on AIDS-related products, have created frameworks for widening access to medicines for other diseases that disproportionally impact countries with limited resources and for strengthening health systems overall. Examples of such systems strengthening have come in the areas of drug development and pricing; policy and regulation; pharmaceutical procurement, distribution, and use; and management systems, such as for health information and human resources. For example, a hospital in South Africa developed new tools to decentralize provision of antiretroviral therapy to local clinics—bringing treatment closer to patients and shifting responsibility from scarce pharmacists to lower level pharmacy staff. Successful, the system was expanded to patients with other chronic conditions, such as mental illness. Progress toward universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support will continue the push to strengthen pharmaceutical sectors that serve not only HIV-related needs but all health needs; health experts can likely take these achievements further to maximize their expansion into the wider health system.

In 2003, we worked with Tanzania’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to develop a public-private partnership based on a holistic approach that builds the capacity of owners, dispensers, and institutions that regulate, own, or work in retail drug shops. For shop owners and dispensers, this was achieved by combining training, business incentives, supervision, and regulatory enforcement with efforts to increase client demand for and expectations of quality products and services. The accredited drug dispensing outlet (ADDO) program has proven to be scalable, sustainable, and transferable: Tanzania has rolled out the program nationwide; the ADDO program has been institutionalized as part of the country’s health system; shops are profitable and meeting consumer demands; and the ADDO model has been adapted and implemented in Uganda and Liberia.

People in low-income countries purchase a high proportion of antimicrobials from retail drug shops, both with and without a prescription. Tanzania's accredited drug dispensing outlet (ADDO) program includes dispenser training, enforcement of standards, and the legal right to sell selected antimicrobials. We assessed the role of ADDOs in facilitating access to antimicrobials.

Tanzania introduced the accredited drug dispensing outlet (ADDO) program more than a decade ago. Previous evaluations have generally shown that ADDOs meet defined standards of practice better than non-accredited outlets. However, ADDOs still face challenges with overuse of antibiotics for acute respiratory infections (ARI) and simple diarrhea, which contributes to the emergence of drug resistance. This study aimed to explore the attitudes of ADDO owners and dispensers toward antibiotic dispensing and to learn how accreditation has influenced their dispensing behavior.

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