At a meeting on Sept 18, 2009 in which reasons for the limited access to artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) in sub-Saharan Africa were discussed, policy and market surveys on anti-malarial drug availability and accessibility in Burundi and Sierra Leone were presented in a highly interactive brainstorming session among key stakeholders across the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. The surveys, the conduct of which directly involved the national malaria control programme managers of the two countries, provide the groundwork for evidence-based policy implementation. The results of the surveys could be extrapolated to other countries with similar socio-demographic and malaria profiles. The meeting resulted in recommendations on key actions to be taken at the global, national, and community level for better ACT accessibility. At the global level, both public and private sectors have actions to take to strengthen policies that lead to the replacement of loose blister packs with fixed-dose ACT products, develop strategies to ban inappropriate antimalarials and regulate those bans, and facilitate technology and knowledge transfer to scale up production of fixed-dose ACT products, which should be readily available and affordable to those patients who are in the greatest need of these medicines. At the national level, policies that regulate the anti-malarial medicines market should be enacted and enforced. The public sector, including funding donors, should participate in ensuring that the private sector is engaged in the ACT implementation process. Research similar to the surveys discussed is important for other countries to develop and evaluate the right incentives at a local level. At the community level, community outreach and education about appropriate preventive and treatment measures must continue and be strengthened, with service delivery systems developed within both public and private sectors, among other measures, to decrease access to ineffective and inappropriate anti-malarial medicines. What was clear during the meeting is that continuing commitment, strengthened interaction and transparency among various stakeholders, with focus on communities, national governments, and evidence-based policy and action are the only way to sustainably address the control of malaria, a disease which continues to have a significant health and socio-economic impact worldwide, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Details on the methodology employed in carrying out the studies discussed at this meeting, as well as more detailed results, data analysis and discussion of the studies, are soon to be published.
Malaria Journal (2010) 9 (Suppl. 1) S1 [doi:10.1186/1475-2875-9-S1-S1].