Presumptive treatment of malaria from formal and informal drug vendors in Nigeria

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 21;9(10):e110361. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110361. eCollection 2014.


Background: Despite policies that recommend parasitological testing before treatment for malaria, presumptive treatment remains widespread in Nigeria. The majority of Nigerians obtain antimalarial drugs from two types of for-profit drug vendors-formal and informal medicine shops-but little is known about the quality of malaria care services provided at these shops.

Aims: This study seeks to (1) describe the profile of patients who seek treatment at different types of drug outlets, (2) document the types of drugs purchased for treating malaria, (3) assess which patients are purchasing recommended drugs, and (4) estimate the extent of malaria over-treatment.

Methods: In urban, peri-urban, and rural areas in Oyo State, customers exiting proprietary and patent medicine vendor (PPMV) shops or pharmacies having purchased anti-malarial drugs were surveyed and tested with malaria rapid diagnostic test. A follow-up phone survey was conducted four days after to assess self-reported drug administration. Bivariate and multivariate regression analysis was conducted to determine the correlates of patronizing a PPMV versus pharmacy, and the likelihood of purchasing an artemisinin-combination therapy (ACT) drug.

Results: Of the 457 participants who sought malaria treatment in 49 enrolled outlets, nearly 92% had diagnosed their condition by themselves, a family member, or a friend. Nearly 60% pharmacy customers purchased an ACT compared to only 29% of PPMV customers, and pharmacy customers paid significantly more on average. Multivariate regression results show that patrons of PPMVs were younger, less wealthy, waited fewer days before seeking care, and were less likely to be diagnosed at a hospital, clinic, or laboratory. Only 3.9% of participants tested positive with a malaria rapid diagnostic test.

Conclusions: Poorer individuals seeking care at PPMVs are more likely to receive inappropriate malaria treatment when compared to those who go to pharmacies. Increasing accessibility to reliable diagnosis should be explored to reduce malaria over-treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use*
  • Artemisinins / therapeutic use
  • Blacks
  • Commerce / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Malaria / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nigeria
  • Nonprescription Drugs / therapeutic use
  • Young Adult


  • Antimalarials
  • Artemisinins
  • Nonprescription Drugs
  • artemisinin

Grant support

The authors wish to acknowledge ExxonMobil for financial support of this study as well as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for provision of RDTs and ACTs for the study. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.