GENEVA, 25 April 2016 — Two reports published by UNITAID today project rising demand for malaria diagnostics and treatment through 2018, despite recent sharp declines in malaria prevalence worldwide. Over 400 million treatments and a vast scale-up in the market for malaria rapid diagnostic tests are needed over the next three years to meet global targets for eliminating malaria.


UNITAID’s Global Malaria Diagnostic and Artemisinin Treatment Commodities Demand Forecast: 2015 — 2018, is the first publicly available document to forecast together the demand for rapid diagnostic tests; artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) and artemisinin monotherapies. ACTs are recommended by the World Health Organization as first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria.


The report estimates that global demand for all antimalarial medicines will grow from 1.3 billion treatments in 2015 to approximately 1.4 billion treatments by 2018. This is substantially larger than the estimated 214 million malaria cases in 2014, owing to limited use of pre-treatment diagnosis, and excessive presumptive treatment with antimalarials, especially in the private sector.


Rapid diagnostic tests, which can detect malaria parasites in blood samples in minutes, are a key tool for fighting malaria in low-income settings. However, there is a pressing need to expand coverage levels especially, among community health workers and in the private sector.


Although procurement of rapid diagnostic tests is expected to increase from 281 million tests in 2015 to 384 million in 2016, purchase volumes pale in comparison to the theoretical need for diagnosis. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, 3.7 billion fevers are estimated to occur per year, with potentially 1.1 billion of these incident fevers associated with detectable malaria infection.


Global procurement of quality-assured ACTs is projected to grow from 378 million treatments in 2015 to 457 million treatments in 2016. This is largely due to an increase in donor funded purchases in the public sector for countries where malaria is endemic. Non-quality assured ACTs comprise about a quarter of estimated global ACT demand, which is mostly driven by the private sector. This is a cause for concern as use of potentially sub-standard drugs could increase the risk of patients dying. Besides, it can also lead to the emergence of artemisinin-resistant malaria in Africa.


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