Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has today launched the distribution of 24 million long lasting insecticide treated nets to all districts in Uganda in the latest campaign to eliminate malaria.

Dr Ruhakana Rugunda is in Apac representing President Yoweri Museveni at the launch of the second universal coverage of long lasting insecticide treated nets (LLIN) .

The campaign is intended to complement other government efforts to bring down the incidence of malaria in the country.

One net will be given to at least two registered people in each household.The last similar campaign launched in 2013 led to a major reduction in malaria prevalence from 42% to 19%.

This comes amidst reports that access to anti-malaria drugs is becoming more difficult as retailers in privately owned health facilities continue to charge exorbitant prices in spite of government subsidies, a new study has revealed.

A report on monitoring availability and prices for-co-paid artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) in the private sector in Uganda revealed that while 87 per cent of co-paid malaria drugs are available in the market, however, the final retail price is prohibitive for the rural population.

For instance, while the manufacturers charge a median price of UShs900 ($0.25) for a six by four pack, which is a complete dosage, wholesalers’ offer it at median cost of Ush2,000 ($0.55) and the prices double to a median of Ushs4,000 ($1.11) at retail. The six-by-four pack is the most preferred malaria treatment.

“We have already paid 70 per cent of the costs of the drugs to the manufacturers, so we do not expect the prices to be too high at retail. The public should report facilities that are charging high prices for branded ACT,” said Jimmy Opigo, programme manager at the Ministry of Health.

“Half of our population gets malaria treatment from private facilities, but they are faced with price barriers. Yet if they delay treatment, the disease goes into a severe form; so, we need to bring the prices down,” added Dr Opigo.

The private sector is being subsidised with the aim of increasing access to affordable anti-malaria drugs after findings showed that half of the population gets treatment from the private sector, with the rural population paying a much higher price for co-paid ACTs.

Although the ACTs are free in public health facilities, a significant number of people are compelled to go to private facilities owing to frequent stock-outs, long queues and distance to government facilities said Denis Kibira, executive director, HEPS-Uganda, a non-governmental organisation that conducted the study.

The study was conducted in six regions — Central, Northern, West Nile, Western, South-western and Eastern Uganda — involving 477 private for profit facilities. The study was done between November and December 2016.
Exorbitant prices are one of the factors that prompted the government to shift malaria treatment from chloroquine and fansidar to ACTs, Dr Opigo added.

Currently, the subsidised ACT bears a green leaf brand where the Ministry of Health expects all private facilities irrespective of location not to charge more than a $1 per dose.

 

Ministry of Health statistics show that between 23 and 40 per cent of all outpatient clinic visitors and 50 per cent of all inpatient admissions are for malaria. Malaria management alone takes 10 per cent of the ministry’s budget.