This Day (Lagos)

8 November 2012

Nigeria: Group Backs 'Controversial' Malaria Drugs Subsidy

Contrary to the claim last week by a charity organisation, Oxfam, that an international scheme that aims to boost the provision of the most effective treatment for malaria, Affordable Medicines Facility for malaria (AMFm) is ineffective, a group in a study has said that the scheme is yielding positive result.

The charity's Senior Health Policy Advisor, Dr Mohga Kamal Yanni, said: "it is dangerous to put the lives of sick children in the hands of a shopkeeper with no medical training and to pursue a scheme that doesn't help those people who need it the most."

The scheme was introduced three years ago by the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria and piloted in seven countries including Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana. But Researchers who evaluated a global subsidy for malaria treatment say it had a substantial impact in a short space of time, saying it reduced the price of drugs and led to more treatment

AMFm was launched in seven African countries by the Global Fund with the aim of bringing down the price of the most effective form of malaria treatment in order to discourage discourage problems with resistance.

According to Yanni, "This programme rapidly met its benchmarks despite the many constraints, expectations and unrealistic timelines imposed on it."

"There had been concern that the poorest would not benefit from the programme, because the drugs were not free. The effect of AMFm in Niger and Madagascar was limited, with low orders. In all other pilots, it's likely AMFm had a dramatic effect on drugs sold through the private for-profit market, " he said. Oxfam has criticised the scheme for focusing on "untrained shopkeepers" to help deliver treatment in rural communities - but supporters of AMFm claim these objections are purely ideological.

The evaluation did not measure health outcomes, and the researchers said data on the use of treatment was not yet available. In an accompanying comment article, 10 eminent scientists noted "unremitting opposition" to AMFm from the United States, and appealed for the scheme to be preserved in its current form when the Global Fund's board decides its future next month.

The scientists said: "This programme, 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 anti-malarial drugs has worked, making them available in the private sector where people go to buy them

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