Poor-quality antimalarials further health inequities in Uganda

Health Policy Plan. 2019 Dec 1;34(Supplement_3):iii36-iii47. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czz012.


Substandard and falsified medications are a major threat to public health, directly increasing the risk of treatment failure, antimicrobial resistance, morbidity, mortality and health expenditures. While antimalarial medicines are one of the most common to be of poor quality in low- and middle-income countries, their distributional impact has not been examined. This study assessed the health equity impact of substandard and falsified antimalarials among children under five in Uganda. Using a probabilistic agent-based model of paediatric malaria infection (Substandard and Falsified Antimalarial Research Impact, SAFARI model), we examine the present day distribution of the burden of poor-quality antimalarials by socio-economic status and urban/rural settings, and simulate supply chain, policy and patient education interventions. Patients incur US$26.1 million (7.8%) of the estimated total annual economic burden of substandard and falsified antimalarials, including $2.3 million (9.1%) in direct costs and $23.8 million (7.7%) in productivity losses due to early death. Poor-quality antimalarials annually cost $2.9 million to the government. The burden of the health and economic impact of malaria and poor-quality antimalarials predominantly rests on the poor (concentration index -0.28) and rural populations (98%). The number of deaths among the poorest wealth quintile due to substandard and falsified antimalarials was 12.7 times that of the wealthiest quintile, and the poor paid 12.1 times as much per person in out-of-pocket payments. Rural populations experienced 97.9% of the deaths due to poor-quality antimalarials, and paid 10.7 times as much annually in out-of-pocket expenses compared with urban populations. Our simulations demonstrated that interventions to improve medicine quality could have the greatest impact at reducing inequities, and improving adherence to antimalarials could have the largest economic impact. Substandard and falsified antimalarials have a significant health and economic impact, with greater burden of deaths, disability and costs on poor and rural populations, contributing to health inequities in Uganda.

Keywords: Malaria; Uganda; agent-based model; antimalarial; falsified; health inequities; quality; substandard.

MeSH terms

  • Antimalarials / economics*
  • Antimalarials / standards*
  • Antimalarials / supply & distribution
  • Child, Preschool
  • Counterfeit Drugs / economics
  • Counterfeit Drugs / therapeutic use*
  • Health Expenditures
  • Humans
  • Malaria / drug therapy*
  • Malaria / economics
  • Malaria / mortality
  • Rural Population
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Uganda


  • Antimalarials
  • Counterfeit Drugs