Background: Millions of patients are prescribed drugs for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in developing countries each year, yet the treatment effect of these prescriptions is largely unknown.
Objectives: To determine if the prescribing of erythromycin and ceftriaxone to pregnant women with STI symptoms leads to a reduction in the prevalence among these women of chlamydia and gonorrhoea, respectively.
Methods: We compared the prevalence of chlamydia among 116 pregnant women who had been prescribed erythromycin for a history of STI symptoms in their current pregnancy with the prevalence in a control group of 557 pregnant women who had not been prescribed this drug. Similarly we compared the prevalence of gonorrhoea among 110 pregnant women who had and 561 women who had not been prescribed ceftriaxone.
Results: There was no significant difference in the prevalence of chlamydia among the women who had and the women who had not been prescribed erythromycin four times daily for 10 days (7% v 8%). Contrarily, none of the women who had been prescribed a single dose of ceftriaxone had gonorrhoea, whereas 4% of the women who had not had this drug prescribed did have gonorrhoea.
Conclusions: The prescribing of erythromycin seems to have had a limited effect on chlamydia in this population, whereas the prescribing of ceftriaxone led to the curing of gonorrhoea. Ceftriaxone is provided as a single dose injection at the point of care, and the differential effectiveness between the two drugs may reflect low compliance with the complex erythromycin regimen. Interventions to increase compliance could improve cure rates. The use of a simpler drug regimen should be considered when low compliance is likely.