NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 19 – Anti-malarial drugs will soon be prescribed only after complete diagnosis is done on a patient, the government announced on Thursday.
Public Health Permanent Secretary Mark Bor said they would begin the implementation of diagnosis-based treatment policy later in the year in which all suspected malaria cases will be tested before treatment.
“We plan to introduce malaria rapid diagnostic test kits to be used in confirmation of malaria even at chemist level,” the PS said.
The rapid diagnostic test kits will take 10 to 15 minutes to detect malaria.
The PS said from the Sh40 billion Kenya secured in round 10 of the Global Fund against AIDS, TB and malaria, the government would procure 7.6 million diagnostic kits at a cost of Sh390 million.
The Head of Disease Prevention and Control Willis Akhwale said the introduction of diagnostic kits will heavily reduce the cost the State is currently incurring on malaria treatment.
He said the government spends Sh1 billion annually in direct cost of drugs for malaria treatment which could be brought down to Sh200 million annually through proper diagnosis.
“One of the challenges we have had as a country is over treatment of malaria. Some people go to the hospital and start by saying I am suffering from malaria and they expect the clinician to start treating them for malaria. In fact by the time you finish assessing the patient, they will ask ‘have you prescribed anti-malarial drugs for me’ and we have our health workers occasionally succumbing to that pressure and giving them anti-malarials,” Akhwale said.
“Clinicians must only prescribe when we are able to confirm that you have malaria and Kenyans must know that whenever they are not feeling well, it is not necessarily malaria, some of it could even be hangover from taking too much alcohol!” he insisted.
At the same time, he said the government was conducting studies to establish why there was continued high malaria prevalence in Western and Nyanza at 38 percent despite it going down to less than five percent in most parts of the country.
Akhwale said the high prevalence had also been noticed in Uganda and Tanzania along the shores of Lake Victoria.
“For us to understand what is happening in the lake basin, we are working now with the Kenya Medical Research Institute, the Centres for Disease Control and the Wellcome Trust to try and see if it is an issue of the vector. The chances could be that we could be having new vectors that transmit malaria because of urban movement,” he said.
He added that there could also be resistance to some of the insecticides being used on the nets and indoor residual spraying.
They were now evaluating new insecticides which could be recommended for future use.
“We have a class called the parathyroid and those are the ones that we are using- synthetic parathyroid in the nets and indoor residual spraying but currently we are evaluating a group that we call carbamate and also organophosphates and even in the past there has been a debate on whether we use DDT; so we are looking at a broad spectrum before we advice,” he said.
They were speaking during a media briefing ahead of the World Malaria Day to be marked next week under the theme Sustain Gains, Save Lives, Invest in Malaria.