Source : Daily Independent
LAST UPDATED AT Sat Apr, 30 2011
By Yinka Shokunbi
With the renewed determination of the international community to sweep out malaria out of Africa, a new initiative to put affordable and effective anti-malaria drugs within the reach of people in often remote communities in Africa is making rapid progress.
In four implementing countries – Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar and Nigeria – life-saving malaria treatment can now be bought in private stores and pharmacies for as little as 50 U.S. cents as against previous cost which was up to 20 times as much.
The Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria (AMFm) gets key financial support from UNITAD, the United Kingdom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, technical support from members of the Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Partnership and it is hosted by the Global Fund.
The initiative, which began last year, is being piloted in eight countries – Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania (including Zanzibar), Uganda and Cambodia – to enable lessons to be learnt before a potential global roll out.
AMFm aims to make anti-malarial drugs, known as artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), available as widely and cheaply as possible. About 225 million people fall ill with malaria every year and 780,000 die from the disease.
Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) specifically recommends ACTs as first-line treatment for Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the most deadly form of the disease, the drug accounts for only about one in five of all treatments taken for malaria and until recently, it has only been available for free or at low cost in public health facilities.
Most people buy anti-malaria treatments in private shops and pharmacies where ACTs were not available at an affordable price before the launch of AMFm. These shops sell older, cheap medicines such as chloroquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, which are no longer effective because the Plasmodium falciparum is increasingly resistant to them.
The objective of the AMFm programme is to drive out these ineffective therapies by bringing down ACT treatment costs drastically and making the drugs more accessible to millions of people.
According to the executive director of the Global Fund, Prof. Michel Kazatchkine, “We are making further progress in fighting malaria in Africa by providing affordable treatment to millions of people through the Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria,” said executive director of the Global Fund.
“The Affordable Medicines Facility – malaria is a major step forward. It uses innovative financing methods to save lives by providing affordable and effective medicines to more people in need through the public, NGO and private sectors.”
For the innovation to work, the Global Fund first negotiates a discounted price for ACTs with drug manufacturers and then pays most of the reduced price on behalf of importers from the private, NGO and public sectors, leading to an average sales price of less than 10 cents.
The reduced prices allow private wholesalers to sell the ACTs to retailers at a profit. Pharmacies and stores in turn sell the drugs to patients and caregivers with an additional mark-up, while keeping the retail price affordable.
The AMFm was introduced in the country in March 2011, ACTs that are not co-paid by the AMFm cost about 1,000 – 1,500 Naira (US$ 6.70 – 9.50) per adult treatment.
The Society for Family Health (SFH), a not-for-profit NGO started distribution of AMFm co-paid ACTs in Nigeria in March 2011.
Under AMFm, SFH will sell a full course of treatment for children aged under-five years in private health facilities and outlets at US$ 0.20. The adult course of treatment is expected to sell for US$ 0.80.
In the eight countries where the AMFm is being implemented, governments are supporting the initiative with public awareness campaigns and training for ACT provide