22 August 2018
Malaria is a leading cause of paediatric morbidity and mortality in Uganda. More than half of febrile children in rural areas initially seek care at private clinics and drug shops. These shops are generally unregulated and the quality of clinical care is variable, with the potential for misdiagnosis and the development of drug resistance. There is thus an urgent need to identify rural drug shops and coordinate their malaria treatment efforts with those of the public sector. The objective of the study was to identify all drug shops in the Bugoye sub-county of Western Uganda and assess their anti-malarial dispensing practices.
This study is a cross-sectional survey of drug shops in a rural sub-county of Western Uganda. In the first phase, shop locations, licensing and shopkeeper’s qualifications, and supply and pricing of anti-malarials were characterized. In the second phase, the proportion of anti-malarials dispensed by private drug shops was compared to public health facilities.
A total of 48 drug shops were identified. Only one drug shop (1 of 48, 2%) was licensed with the sub-county’s records office. The drug shops stocked a variety of anti-malarials, including first-line therapies and less effective agents (e.g., sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine). Almost all drug shops (45 of 48, 94%) provided parenteral anti-malarials. Of the 3900 individuals who received anti-malarials during the study, 2080 (53.3%) purchased anti-malarials through the private sector compared to 1820 (46.7%) who obtained anti-malarials through the public sector. Drug shops were the primary source of parenteral anti-malarials. Inadequate dosing of anti-malarials was more common in drug shops.
Drug shops are major sources of parenteral anti-malarials, which should be reserved for cases of severe malaria. Strengthening malaria case management and incorporating drug shops in future interventions is necessary to optimize malaria control efforts in the sub-county, and in similarly endemic regions.