The private for-profit sector is an important source of treatment for malaria. However, private patients face high prices for the recommended treatment for uncomplicated malaria, artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs), which makes them more likely to receive cheaper, less effective non-artemisinin therapies (nATs). This study seeks to better understand consumer antimalarial prices by documenting and exploring the pricing behaviour of retailers and wholesalers. Using data collected in 2009-10, we present survey estimates of antimalarial retail prices, and wholesale- and retail-level price mark-ups from six countries (Benin, Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia), along with qualitative findings on factors affecting pricing decisions. Retail prices were lowest for nATs, followed by ACTs and artemisinin monotherapies (AMTs). Retailers applied the highest percentage mark-ups on nATs (range: 40% in Nigeria to 100% in Cambodia and Zambia), whereas mark-ups on ACTs (range: 22% in Nigeria to 71% in Zambia) and AMTs (range: 22% in Nigeria to 50% in Uganda) were similar in magnitude, but lower than those applied to nATs. Wholesale mark-ups were generally lower than those at retail level, and were similar across antimalarial categories in most countries. When setting prices wholesalers and retailers commonly considered supplier prices, prevailing market prices, product availability, product characteristics and the costs related to transporting goods, staff salaries and maintaining a property. Price discounts were regularly used to encourage sales and were sometimes used by wholesalers to reward long-term customers. Pricing constraints existed only in Benin where wholesaler and retailer mark-ups are regulated; however, unlicensed drug vendors based in open-air markets did not adhere to the pricing regime. These findings indicate that mark-ups on antimalarials are reasonable. Therefore, improving ACT affordability would be most readily achieved by interventions that reduce commodity prices for retailers, such as ACT subsidies, pooled purchasing mechanisms and cost-effective strategies to increase the distribution coverage area of wholesalers.
Keywords: Antimalarials; malaria treatment; pharmaceutical pricing; private sector.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.