UNITAID forecasts rising demand for malaria diagnostics and treatment

Two reports published by UNITAID today (April 25, 2016) 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. The World Health Organization recommends ACTs as first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria.

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.

 "Sustained and predictable donor funding for ACTs and rapid diagnostic tests is needed to reduce malaria mortality and morbidity, and maintain healthy markets for suppliers of malaria treatments and diagnostics," says UNITAID Executive Director Lelio Marmora.

The Global Forecast report has been produced by a consortium including the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), IMS Health (IMS), and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Colin Boyle, deputy director of Global Health Sciences at UCSF, was a member of the forecasting consortium.

Read more:

"Global Malaria Diagnostic and Artemisinin Treatment Commodities Demand Forecast: 2015 – 2018 Forecast"