Economics research promotes malaria testing

by Matt Collette
Research shows that making malaria tests available in countries like Uganda leads to more effective treatment. Credit: Thinkstock

In poor coun­tries where malaria is preva­lent but access to health care is lim­ited, many people mis­tak­enly treat the common cold or other serious ill­nesses such as pneu­monia with med­ica­tions for the mosquito-​​borne disease.

North­eastern econ­o­mist William Dickens, a Uni­ver­sity Dis­tin­guished Pro­fessor of Eco­nomics and Social Policy and a non­res­i­dent senior fellow at the Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion, and a team of researchers is trying to combat this problem. Late last year, the researchers pub­lished a sem­inal research study in the open-​​assess journal, which found that pro­viding sub­si­dies and edu­ca­tion can influ­ence more people in poor coun­tries like Uganda to get tested for . Upping the avail­ability of malaria tests increased the like­li­hood that infected people would take the appro­priate med­ica­tion and decreased the like­li­hood of taking unnec­es­sary, costly, and poten­tially harmful med­ica­tions, which are often sold at drug stores without a prescription.

Artem­i­nisin is the only avail­able drug that is broadly effec­tive against malaria, which has adapted to resist ear­lier forms of treat­ment, but it is also very expen­sive. Sub­si­dies make it pos­sible for people to pur­chase the drug, Dickens explained, but also lead to its overuse. This, in turn, can increase the cost of malaria treat­ment pro­grams and raise the risk that those who take Artem­i­nisin inap­pro­pri­ately can build par­a­site immu­nity and suffer con­se­quences from delayed treat­ment of other serious illnesses.

"The big problem right now in fighting malaria is that the par­a­sites have become resis­tant to all of the cheap old cures to malaria," Dickens said.

Sub­si­dizing the costs of malaria tests, he noted, makes them more afford­able for both drug stores and patients, and thus more acces­sible, Dickens said. He added that stores often don't pro­vide these tests if they must pay full price, citing a fear of being unable to sell them.

"Overall, we proved that you could dis­tribute the tests through the pri­vate sector," Dickens said, noting that hos­pi­tals and public health orga­ni­za­tions tra­di­tion­ally per­form the tests. "This was a very effec­tive way to get more tests out."

Dickens pre­sented the find­ings last weekend at the annual meeting of the Amer­ican Eco­nomic Asso­ci­a­tion. He hopes that the study, which was con­ducted by researchers from insti­tu­tions including North­eastern, Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity, and the Har­vard School of Public Health, will help shape the poli­cies of orga­ni­za­tions such as the Global Fund and U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tional Devel­op­ment, both of which have major cam­paigns against malaria.

"These find­ings can make a very real dif­fer­ence in how global devel­op­ment orga­ni­za­tions fight malaria," he said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

A new theory on long-term unemployment

Dec 14, 2012

(Phys.org)—Com­pa­nies rank more recently unem­ployed job can­di­dates much higher than they would rank oth­er­wise qual­i­fied appli­cants who have been out of work for more than six months, ...

Validation for flu prediction

Jan 08, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—In 2009, the H1N1 virus slipped into the blood­streams of more than 40 mil­lion people around the world. In just four months, it killed more than 14,000 indi­vid­uals as it trav­eled ...

Opioid overdose rates 'impossible' to ignore

Nov 21, 2012

(Medical Xpress)—Opioid over­dose now kills more people than both AIDS and homi­cides in America and has sur­passed auto­mo­bile acci­dents as the leading cause of acci­dental death in many states. According to the ...

Recommended for you

Senegal monitors contacts of 1st Ebola patient

8 hours ago

Senegalese authorities on Monday were monitoring everyone who was in contact with a student infected with Ebola who crossed into the country, and who has lost three family members to the disease.

Cerebral palsy may be hereditary

14 hours ago

Cerebral palsy is a neurological developmental disorder which follows an injury to the immature brain before, during or after birth. The resulting condition affects the child's ability to move and in some ...

19 new dengue cases in Japan, linked to Tokyo park

20 hours ago

Japan is urging local authorities to be on the lookout for further outbreaks of dengue fever, after confirming another 19 cases that were contracted at a popular local park in downtown Tokyo.

User comments