Eighty per cent of malaria deaths in the country occur among children below five years of age and pregnant women. A recent national survey by Population Services International (PSI) Tanzania found out that 18 per cent of children have malaria parasites and the prevalence in rural children is almost three times higher than urban children.
In a move aimed at tackling and finally eliminating the disease, the government introduced the use of Artemininin Combination Therapy (ACTs), popularly known as ‘dawa mseto,’ as the first line treatment of the disease. However, there are reports that many drug dealers are selling the medicines at prohibitive prices, making it not accessible to many people in the country.
For this reason, the decision by the government to embark on a crackdown against drug dealers selling ACTs at hiked prices contrary to those recommended by the ministry of health is highly commendable. The ministry has also threatened to revoke the licences of the defiant dealers should they fail to abide by the government’s directive to sell the drugs at between 500/- and 1,000/- as recommended in June, last year.
The Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr Haji Mponda, said in a statement recently that it has been established that many private pharmacies sold the anti-malaria drugs at between 1,500 and 3,000 contrary to the government directive of 500/- per dose for a child and 1,000/- per dose for adults.
The minister pointed out that his ministry embarked on a follow up on 125 private pharmacies in November and December, last year to see if drug dealers were selling the most effective drug combinations at the price recommended by the government. Dar es Salaam, Mwanza, Mbeya, Arusha, Dodoma and Kilimanjaro regions were among places that sold the anti-malaria at higher prices.
The trend is saddening and strongly deplorable to say the least because it undermines efforts to eliminate the disease within the 2015 deadline. It is hoped that the ministry will sustain the campaign by monitoring closely pharmacies that are selling the drugs above recommended levels and take them to task.