Background: Intermittent preventive treatment for malaria in children (IPTc) involves the administration of a full course of an anti-malarial treatment to children under 5 years old at specified time points regardless of whether or not they are known to be infected, in areas where malaria transmission is seasonal. It is important to determine the costs associated with IPTc delivery via community based volunteers and also the potential savings to health care providers and caretakers due to malaria episodes averted as a consequence of IPTc.
Methods: Two thousand four hundred and fifty-one children aged 3-59 months were randomly allocated to four groups to receive: three days of artesunate plus amodiaquine (AS+AQ) monthly, three days of AS+AQ bimonthly, one dose of sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) bi-monthly or placebo. This paper focuses on incremental cost effectiveness ratios (ICERs) of the three IPTc drug regimens as delivered by community based volunteers (CBV) in Hohoe, Ghana compared to current practice, i.e. case management in the absence of IPTc. Financial and economic costs from the publicly funded health system perspective are presented. Treatment costs borne by patients and their caretakers are also estimated to present societal costs. The costs and effects of IPTc during the intervention period were considered with and without a one year follow up. Probabilistic sensitivity analysis was undertaken to account for uncertainty.
Results: Economic costs per child receiving at least the first dose of each course of IPTc show SP bimonthly, at US$8.19, is the cheapest to deliver, followed by AS+AQ bimonthly at US$10.67 and then by AS+AQ monthly at US$14.79. Training, drug delivery and supervision accounted for approximately 20-30% each of total unit costs. During the intervention period AS & AQ monthly was the most cost effective IPTc drug regimen at US$67.77 (61.71-74.75, CI 95%) per malaria case averted based on intervention costs only, US$64.93 (58.92-71.92, CI 95%) per malaria case averted once the provider cost savings are included and US$61.00 (54.98, 67.99, CI 95%) when direct household cost savings are also taken into account. SP bimonthly was US$105.35 (75.01-157.31, CI 95%) and AS & AQ bimonthly US$211.80 (127.05-399.14, CI 95%) per malaria case averted based on intervention costs only. The incidence of malaria in the post intervention period was higher in children who were <1 year old when they received AS+AQ monthly compared to the placebo group leading to higher cost effectiveness ratios when one year follow up is included. The cost per child enrolled fell considerably when modelled to district level as compared to those encountered under trial conditions.
Conclusions: We demonstrate how cost-effective IPTc is using three different drug regimens and the possibilities for reducing costs further if the intervention was to be scaled up to the district level. The need for effective training, drug delivery channels and supervision to support a strong network of community based volunteers is emphasised.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00119132.