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      Why don't health workers prescribe ACT? A qualitative study of factors affecting the prescription of artemether-lumefantrine

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          Abstract

          Background

          Kenya recently changed its antimalarial drug policy to a specific artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), artemether-lumefantrine (AL). New national guidelines on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention were developed and disseminated to health workers together with in-service training.

          Methods

          Between January and March 2007, 36 in-depth interviews were conducted in five rural districts with health workers who attended in-service training and were non-adherent to the new guidelines. A further 20 interviews were undertaken with training facilitators and members of District Health Management Teams (DHMTs) to explore reasons underlying health workers' non-adherence.

          Results

          Health workers generally perceived AL as being tolerable and efficacious as compared to amodiaquine and sulphadoxine-pyremethamine. However, a number of key reasons for non-adherence were identified. Insufficient supply of AL was a major issue and hence fears of stock outs and concern about AL costs was an impediment to AL prescription. Training messages that contradicted the recommended guidelines also led to health worker non-adherence, compounded by a lack of follow-up supervision. In addition, the availability of non-recommended antimalarials such as amodiaquine caused prescription confusion. Some health workers and DHMT members maintained that shortage of staff had resulted in increased patient caseload affecting the delivery of the desirable quality of care and adherence to guidelines.

          Conclusion

          The introduction of free efficacious ACTs in the public health sector in Kenya and other countries has major potential public health benefits for Africa. These may not be realized if provider prescription practices do not conform to the recommended treatment guidelines. It is essential that high quality training, drug supply and supervision work synergistically to ensure appropriate case management.

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          Most cited references 37

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          Reaching the parts other methods cannot reach: an introduction to qualitative methods in health and health services research.

           N Mays,  C Pope (1995)
          Qualitative research methods have a long history in the social sciences and deserve to be an essential component in health and health services research. Qualitative and quantitative approaches to research tend to be portrayed as antithetical; the aim of this series of papers is to show the value of a range of qualitative techniques and how they can complement quantitative research.
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            Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of lumefantrine (benflumetol) in acute falciparum malaria.

            The objective of this study was to conduct a prospective population pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic evaluation of lumefantrine during blinded comparisons of artemether-lumefantrine treatment regimens in uncomplicated multidrug-resistant falciparum malaria. Three combination regimens containing an average adult lumefantrine dose of 1,920 mg over 3 days (four doses) (regimen A) or 2,780 mg over 3 or 5 days (six doses) (regimen B or C, respectively) were given to 266 Thai patients. Detailed observations were obtained for 51 hospitalized adults, and sparse data were collected for 215 patients of all ages in a community setting. The population absorption half-life of lumefantrine was 4.5 h. The model-based median (5th and 95th percentiles) peak plasma lumefantrine concentrations were 6.2 (0.25 and 14.8) microgram/ml after regimen A, 9. 0 (1.1 and 19.8) microgram/ml after regimen B, and 8 (1.4 and 17.4) microgram/ml after regimen C. During acute malaria, there was marked variability in the fraction of drug absorbed by patients (coefficient of variation, 150%). The fraction increased considerably and variability fell with clinical recovery, largely because food intake was resumed; taking a normal meal close to drug administration increased oral bioavailability by 108% (90% confidence interval, 64 to 164) (P, 0.0001). The higher-dose regimens (B and C) gave 60 and 100% higher areas under the concentration-time curves (AUC), respectively, and thus longer durations for which plasma lumefantrine concentrations exceeded the putative in vivo MIC of 280 microgram/ml (median for regimen B, 252 h; that for regimen C, 298 h; that for regimen A, 204 h [P, 0.0001]) and higher cure rates. Lumefantrine oral bioavailability is very dependent on food and is consequently poor in acute malaria but improves markedly with recovery. The high cure rates with the two six-dose regimens resulted from increased AUC and increased time at which lumefantrine concentrations were above the in vivo MIC.
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              The challenges of changing national malaria drug policy to artemisinin-based combinations in Kenya

              Backgound Sulphadoxine/sulphalene-pyrimethamine (SP) was adopted in Kenya as first line therapeutic for uncomplicated malaria in 1998. By the second half of 2003, there was convincing evidence that SP was failing and had to be replaced. Despite several descriptive investigations of policy change and implementation when countries moved from chloroquine to SP, the different constraints of moving to artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) in Africa are less well documented. Methods A narrative description of the process of anti-malarial drug policy change, financing and implementation in Kenya is assembled from discussions with stakeholders, reports, newspaper articles, minutes of meetings and email correspondence between actors in the policy change process. The narrative has been structured to capture the timing of events, the difficulties and hurdles faced and the resolutions reached to the final implementation of a new treatment policy. Results Following a recognition that SP was failing there was a rapid technical appraisal of available data and replacement options resulting in a decision to adopt artemether-lumefantrine (AL) as the recommended first-line therapy in Kenya, announced in April 2004. Funding requirements were approved by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) and over 60 million US$ were agreed in principle in July 2004 to procure AL and implement the policy change. AL arrived in Kenya in May 2006, distribution to health facilities began in July 2006 coincidental with cascade in-service training in the revised national guidelines. Both training and drug distribution were almost complete by the end of 2006. The article examines why it took over 32 months from announcing a drug policy change to completing early implementation. Reasons included: lack of clarity on sustainable financing of an expensive therapeutic for a common disease, a delay in release of funding, a lack of comparative efficacy data between AL and amodiaquine-based alternatives, a poor dialogue with pharmaceutical companies with a national interest in antimalarial drug supply versus the single sourcing of AL and complex drug ordering, tendering and procurement procedures. Conclusion Decisions to abandon failing monotherapy in favour of ACT for the treatment of malaria can be achieved relatively quickly. Future policy changes in Africa should be carefully prepared for a myriad of financial, political and legislative issues that might limit the rapid translation of drug policy change into action.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Malar J
                Malaria Journal
                BioMed Central
                1475-2875
                2008
                5 February 2008
                : 7
                : 29
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Eastern and Southern Africa Centre of International Parasite Control (ESACIPAC)/KEMRI, P.O. Box 54840-00200, Nairobi, Kenya
                [2 ]Malaria Public Health & Epidemiology Group, Centre for Geographic Medicine Research-Coast, Kenya Medical Research Institute/Wellcome Trust Research Programme, P.O. Box 43640, 00100 GPO, Nairobi, Kenya
                [3 ]Centre for Tropical Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, Oxford, OX3 9DU, UK
                [4 ]Department of International Health, School of Public Health and Center for International Health and Development, 5 th Floor, Boston University School of Public Health, 85 East Concord Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA
                [5 ]London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Health Policy Unit, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT, UK
                Article
                1475-2875-7-29
                10.1186/1475-2875-7-29
                2266770
                18252000
                b8eca0e4-53e4-4fc0-b1bc-7827de0eac87
                Copyright © 2008 Wasunna et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Categories
                Research

                Infectious disease & Microbiology

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