Mass drug treatment for elephantiasis is affordable compared with other public health programs

Once-yearly administration of two anti-parasitic drugs to control lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) costs just $0.06 to $2.23 per person treated, making it comparatively inexpensive, according to a major new international study of treatment costs.

The World Health Organization estimates that 1.307 billion people worldwide in 83 countries are at risk of lymphatic filariasis (LF), a disfiguring parasitic disease caused by thread-like nematode worms. The disability caused by LF keeps affected patients and communities mired in poverty. The disease is potentially eradicable through once-yearly mass drug administration (MDA) of two drugs (albendazole with diethylcarbamazine or albendazole with ivermectin).

Ann Goldman (The George Washington University, School of Public Health and Health Services, USA) and an international team of colleagues studied the costs of MDA for LF control in seven countries (Ghana, The Philippines, Tanzania, Egypt, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, and Haiti). The variation in the costs was largely explained by the age (newness) of the MDA program, the use of volunteers, and the size of the population treated.

“The study demonstrates that the costs of MDA programs for LF elimination are comparable to those estimated for other similar disease control and elimination programs,” the authors say.

“Such findings can be used on a national scale for program planning, development and fundraising, and on a global scale for calculating current global costs, predicting scale-up costs and calculating savings from integration with other programs.”


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