The Economics of Vivax Malaria Treatment

Devine, Angela (2018). The Economics of Vivax Malaria Treatment. PhD thesis The Open University.



The control and eventual elimination of malaria will require widescale adoption of strategies to ensure early diagnosis and highly effective treatment of infected individuals. In Plasmodium vivax, multiple relapse episodes can only be averted by treating the dormant liver stage of the parasite life cycle - a strategy known as radical cure. This thesis aims to investigate key factors determining treatment-seeking behaviour and costs associated with vivax malaria, how these influence healthcare decisions, the cost-effectiveness of screening tests and treatments for radical cure, and the cost-benefit implications of their global implementation.

Treatment-seeking behaviour, assessed in Papua, Indonesia, demonstrated that household costs per person seeking treatment for vivax malaria were similar to those for falciparum malaria. Switching from ineffective to effective malaria treatment in the public sector improved the behaviour of patients and both public and private healthcare providers. Diagnostic strategies were investigated on the Thai-Myanmar border, where screening for glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency prior to radical cure reduced the disease burden while being a cost-effective option for healthcare providers that do not use radical cure and a potentially cost-saving alternative where primaquine is prescribed without screening. The costs of implementing G6PD screening were collected in three countries, and highlighted that RDTs consistently reduced costs as compared to the widely-used fluorescent spot test.

Across four countries, the indirect cost due to lost productivity was the largest cost component for households of patients with vivax malaria. After combining provider and patient costs with case estimates, the global economic burden of vivax malaria was estimated to be US$330 million per year. Adopting a policy of screening for G6PD deficiency with delivery of highly effective radical cure was projected to save US$45 million. P. vivax malaria causes a large economic burden that can be reduced substantially by delivering safe and effective radical cure.

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