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ACTwatch, to Improve Malaria Treatment, to Be Launched on World Malaria Day
Date:4/24/2008

NAIROBI, Kenya, April 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A multi-country project called ACTwatch, which will monitor the availability and affordability of effective malaria treatment, will be launched in Nairobi Friday -- World Malaria Day. Over the next five years, ACTwatch, which is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will provide ongoing evidence related to access to antimalarials, specifically artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs), the most effective malaria treatment on the market. This evidence will inform policy discussions ongoing at both the global and country level to increase access to effective antimalarials for those who need them most.

ACTwatch is being implemented by a consortium of partners led by the nongovernmental organization PSI. Other partners include the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United States Pharmacopeia and the market research firm, Nielsen. The project will be carried out in six African countries (Benin, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia) and two countries in Southeast Asia (Cambodia and one other, yet to be decided upon).

Studies conducted under the auspices of the project will examine the price, availability and quality of different types of antimalarials in shops and health facilities. Studies will also investigate malaria treatment seeking behavior in the community and the functioning of the supply chain for antimalarials as well as look at the effect of government policies on the structure of the antimalarial market in each country. The principal outputs of ACTwatch will be evidence on changes in the availability, affordability and use of ACTs, in all sectors, as well as policy recommendations targeting national and international decision-makers to increase use of ACTs in vulnerable communities.

Over the past two to three years, ACTs have become the malaria treatment of choice and have replaced drugs, such as chloroquine, which have become ineffective due to the emergence of resistant malaria parasites. While ACTs are extremely effective in treating malaria, they are sold for up to 10 times the price of chloroquine. As a result, major donor initiatives, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, have provided funds to individual countries to procure ACTs for supply through public health facilities to treat patients sick with malaria.

While public facilities in most malaria endemic countries provide ACTs at low cost or for free, almost half of all malaria patients access treatment through shops, where many kinds of antimalarials, of varying quality, can be found. Few shops stock ACTs because they are so expensive and most patients continue to buy ineffective malaria treatments because that is all that they can afford. To address this problem, both global and national financing initiatives to subsidize the price of ACTs are underway. ACTwatch will provide ongoing feedback to these programs, and measure the extent to which these initiatives have been successful.

For more information on ACTwatch, visit http://www.actwatch.info

The mission of PSI is to measurably improve the health of poor and vulnerable people in the developing world, principally through social marketing of family planning and health products and services, and behavior change communications. Social marketing engages private sector resources and uses private sector techniques to encourage healthy behavior and make markets work for the poor.


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SOURCE Population Services International
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