Private sector opportunities and threats to achieving malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong Subregion: results from malaria outlet surveys in Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand.Malar J. 2017 05 02; 16(1):180.MJ
The aim of this paper is to review multi-country evidence of private sector adherence to national regulations, guidelines, and quality-assurance standards for malaria case management and to document current coverage of private sector engagement and support through ACTwatch outlet surveys implemented in 2015 and 2016.
Over 76,168 outlets were screened, and approximately 6500 interviews were conducted (Cambodia, N = 1303; the Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR), N = 724; Myanmar, N = 4395; and Thailand, N = 74). There was diversity in the types of private sector outlets providing malaria treatment across countries, and the extent to which they were authorized to test and treat for malaria differed. Among outlets stocking at least one anti-malarial, public sector availability of the first-line treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum or Plasmodium vivax malaria was >75%. In the anti-malarial stocking private sector, first-line treatment availability was variable (Cambodia, 70.9%; the Lao PDR, 40.8%; Myanmar P. falciparum = 42.7%, P. vivax = 19.6%; Thailand P. falciparum = 19.6%, P. vivax = 73.3%), as was availability of second-line treatment (the Lao PDR, 74.9%; Thailand, 39.1%; Myanmar, 19.8%; and Cambodia, 0.7%). Treatment not in the National Treatment Guidelines (NTGs) was most common in Myanmar (35.8%) and Cambodia (34.0%), and was typically stocked by the informal sector. The majority of anti-malarials distributed in Cambodia and Myanmar were first-line P. falciparum or P. vivax treatments (90.3% and 77.1%, respectively), however, 8.8% of the market share in Cambodia was treatment not in the NTGs (namely chloroquine) and 17.6% in Myanmar (namely oral artemisinin monotherapy). In the Lao PDR, approximately 9 in 10 anti-malarials distributed in the private sector were second-line treatments-typically locally manufactured chloroquine. In Cambodia, 90% of anti-malarials were distributed through outlets that had confirmatory testing available. Over half of all anti-malarial distribution was by outlets that did not have confirmatory testing available in the Lao PDR (54%) and Myanmar (59%). Availability of quality-assured rapid diagnostic tests (RDT) amongst the RDT-stocking public sector ranged from 99.3% in the Lao PDR to 80.1% in Cambodia. In Cambodia, the Lao PDR, and Myanmar, less than 50% of the private sector reportedly received engagement (access to subsidized commodities, supervision, training or caseload reporting), which was most common among private health facilities and pharmacies.
Findings from this multi-country study suggest that Cambodia, the Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand are generally in alignment with national regulations, treatment guidelines, and quality-assurance standards. However, important gaps persist in the private sector which pose a threat to national malaria control and elimination goals. Several options are discussed to help align the private sector anti-malarial market with national elimination strategies.