Public and private sector responses to essential drugs policies: a multilevel analysis of drug prescription and selling practices in Mali

Fatoumata Ina Maïga, Slim Haddad, Pierre Fournier, Lise Gauvin
Social Science & Medicine 2003, 57 (5): 937-48
Many African countries have introduced cost recovery mechanisms based on the sale of drugs and measures aimed at improving drug supply. This study compares prescribing and selling practices in Mali, in 3 cities where the public sector contributes differentially to the supply of drugs on the market. Multilevel models are used to analyse the content and cost of 700 medication transactions observed in 14 private and public legal points of sale. Results show that the objective of improving access to drugs seems to have been achieved in the sites studied. Costs of prescriptions were lower where public health services had been revitalized. Affordable generic drugs were accessible and widely used, even in the private sector. However, measures intended to rationalize the prescription and delivery of drugs did not always have the desired effect. While agents in the public sector tended to prescribe fewer antibiotics, injectables, or brand-name drugs, the data confirm the virtual absence of advice concerning the use or the side effects of the drugs in both public and private sectors. In addition, data supported the notion that the public and private sectors are closely intertwined. Notably, availability of drugs in the public sector contributed to diminishing the prices charged in the private sector. Similarly, the use that agents in the public sector made of the opportunities afforded by the presence of the private pharmaceutical sector provided another illustration of interrelatedness. Finally, the data showed that the presence of a private sector, which has not been affected by measures aimed at rationalizing prescription and sales practices, limits the effects of measures implemented in the public sector. More assertive policies, based on strategies encompassing actors in the private sector, are needed to increase the safety and effectiveness of prescription and sales practices.

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