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DOI: 10.1101/2023.05.23.23290407

Improving malaria case management with artemisinin-based combination therapies and malaria rapid diagnostic tests in private medicine retail outlets in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review

C.Goodman S. Tougher T. J. Shang T. Visser
Private medicine retailers (PMRs) such as pharmacies and drug stores account for a substantial share of treatment-seeking for fever and malaria, but there are widespread concerns about quality of care, including inadequate access to malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs). This review synthesizes evidence on the effectiveness of interventions to improve malaria case management in PMRs in sub-Saharan Africa (PROSPERO #2021:CRD42021253564). We included quantitative studies evaluating interventions supporting RDT and/or ACT sales by PMR staff, with a historical or contemporaneous control group, and outcomes related to care received. We searched Medline Ovid, Embase Ovid, Global Health Ovid, Econlit Ovid and the Cochrane Library; unpublished studies were identified by contacting key informants. We conducted a narrative synthesis by intervention category. We included 41 papers, relating to 34 studies. There was strong evidence that small and large-scale ACT subsidy programmes (without RDTs) increased the market share of quality-assured ACT in PMRs, including among rural and poorer groups, with increases of over 30 percentage points in most settings. Interventions to introduce or enhance RDT use in PMRs led to RDT uptake among febrile clients of over two-thirds and dispensing according to RDT result of over three quarters, though some studies had much poorer results. Introducing Integrated Community Case Management (iCCM) was also effective in improving malaria case management. However, there were no eligible studies on RDT or iCCM implementation at large scale. There was limited evidence that PMR accreditation (without RDTs) increased ACT uptake. Key evidence gaps include evaluations of RDTs and iCCM at large scale, evaluations of interventions including use of digital technologies, and robust studies of accreditation and other broader PMR interventions.