NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 12 – The cost of treating malaria in Kenya is set to reduce drastically following support from development partners. The country is among 12 nations that have been selected to benefit from subsidised anti-malarial medicine through development partners.
Public Health Minister Beth Mugo said on Thursday that under the programme, the Artemesinin based combination therapies (ACT), which is the World Health Organisation recommended anti malarial treatment could be accessed at a rate as low as Sh20 per dose down from the current price of Sh400.
“The programme is accessing the same good medicines but which is being subsidised by our development partners such as the Global Fund,” the Minister explained at the opening of a three day global meeting on affordable medicines for malaria.
“This means that we will be able to access this medicine at only five percent its price, (while) 95 percent will be subsidised. We were chosen because of the efforts which have been done in prevention of malaria,” she added.
Mrs Mugo noted that a large proportion of malaria patients did not access ACT’s in good time due to their expensive nature.
“As a result many of these people buy incomplete doses of medicine – which are no longer recommended for treatment – because it is what they can afford,” she said.
“The first 24 hours of the onset of symptoms are critical to saving lives especially those of children below five years of age.”
Mrs Mugo said buying incomplete doses of these drugs could also increase resistance to the ACT’s.
“When the parasites develop resistance and we have to switch to other medication, to get off the shelf the drugs which are already resistant and introduce new ones poses a setback to malaria control,” she said.
Head of Disease Prevention and Control at the Ministry, Dr Willis Akhwale said there had been a noted resistance to a group of insecticides although it had not reached alarming levels.
He said the resistance was in a group of insecticides known as synthetic pyrethroids.
“This is the same group that we are using and what we know is that there has been a pocket of resistance not only in Kenya but also in other parts of Africa. But the levels being reported do not warrant us dismissing the ones in use as ineffective,” Dr Akhwale said.
“So we will continue monitoring this and when we reach what we call an alert level then we will consult and decide the next insecticide that we will use,” he explained.
He said the country within its policies reviews every five years the insecticides that are used and could adopt another group if the ones in use are ineffective.
“The resistance level that we have got from some of the sites by mid last year was about 4.5 percent but does not mean that the insecticides are absolutely useless,” he said.
“We are still reviewing them this year,” he added.
Statistics indicate that one million people out of the 300 to 600 million malaria cases reported worldwide die each year, 90 percent of who are in sub Saharan Africa.
“These deaths have been attributed to the rapid spread of resistance to cheap and commonly used anti- malarials over the last three decades,” Mrs Mugo said.