Current Weather
The Spy FM

Malaria Drug Subsidies: Good Idea Or Wrong Path?

Filed by KOSU News in Health.
October 31, 2012

A month ago we wrote about results from an experiment in getting the most effective malaria drugs to more people who need them in Africa.

The idea was to subsidize the cost of drugs, sometimes to a price point below their wholesale cost, and make them more widely available.

Now the findings, presented publicly at a meeting in Washington, have been published in The Lancet.

In most of the countries where the subsidies were tried, the share of the market for artemisinin-combination therapies, or ACTs, went up a lot. In Zanzibar (part of Tanzania) and Nigeria, the ACT drugs helped drive down sales of one-drug treatments. Those so-called monotherapies, which are cheaper, are a problem because they can spur drug-resistant malaria.

The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria program, or AMFm, brought more than 100 million doses of malaria drugs to clinics and pharmacies in 2011.

“The programme has been highly controversial,” the authors of the study acknowledge. A big worry: Middlemen would pocket the subsidies and consumers, especially the poorest ones, wouldn’t benefit.

Others say the program, a pilot test of the concept, hasn’t been able to show it saves lives or made a dent in resistance. The aid group Oxfam blasted the approach, saying it’s risky and a distraction:

The Affordable Medicine Facility–malaria has shown no evidence that it has saved the lives of the most vulnerable or delayed drug resistance. Rather, this global subsidy has incentivised medicine sales without diagnosis and shown no evidence that it has served poor people. It poses a risk to public health and could skew investment away from effective solutions.

Oxfam recommends that the board of the Global Fund pull the plug on it next month.

But supporters of the idea, writing an accompanying editorial in The Lancet, disagree, saying a board vote against the program would be a mistake:

Most importantly, it will kill a programme that, when fully implemented, rapidly met its benchmarks despite the many constraints, expectations and unrealistic timelines imposed on it. We must acknowledge that an efficient approach to subsidising antimalarial drugs has worked, making them available in the private sector where people go to buy them.

[Copyright 2012 National Public Radio]

Leave a Reply

11PM to 5AM The Spy

The Spy

An eclectic mix of the Spy's library of more than 10,000 songs curated by Ferris O'Brien.

Listen Live Now!

5AM to 6AM The Splendid Table

The Splendid Table

Hosted by award-winning Lynne Rossetto Kasper, The Splendid Table is a culinary, culture and lifestyle program that celebrates food and its ability to touch the lives and feed the souls of everyone.

View the program guide!

6AM to 7AM Travel with Rick Steves

Travel with Rick Steves

"Travel with Rick Steves" is a fun, hour-long, and practical talk show with guest experts and calls and questions from travelers. This weekly program is a lively conversation between travelers and the experts as we learn to explore our world smartly, smoothly, and thoughtfully.

View the program guide!

Upcoming Events in your area (Submit your event today!)

Streaming audio and podcasts

Stream KOSU on your smartphone

Phone Streaming

SmartPhone listening options on this page are intended for many iPhones, Blackberries, etc. with low-cost software applications available to listen to our full-time web streams, both News on KOSU-1 and Classical on KOSU-2.

Learn more about our complete range of streaming services

We're perfecting the patient experience - Stillwater Medical Center