Engagement of the Private Pharmaceutical Sector for TB Control: Rhetoric or Reality?
Private-sector retail drug outlets are often the first point of contact for common health ailments, including tuberculosis (TB). Systematic reviews on public-private mix (PPM) interventions for TB did not perform in-depth reviews specifically on engaging retail drug outlets and related stakeholders in the pharmaceutical sector. Our objective was to better understand the extent to which the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation on engaging retail drug outlets has been translated into programmatic policy, strategy, and intervention in low- and middle-income countries.
The study included a content analysis of global-level documents from WHO and the Stop TB Partnership in five phases. A country-level content analysis from four data sources was performed. Global-level findings were tabulated based on key messages related to engaging retail drug outlets. Country-level findings were analyzed based on four factors and tabulated. National strategic plans for TB control from 14 countries with varying TB burdens and a strong private sector were reviewed.
33 global-level documents and 77 full-text articles and Union World Lung Health conference abstracts were included for review. Based on experience of engaging retail drug outlets that has emerged since the mid-2000s, in 2011 WHO and the International Pharmaceutical Federation released a joint statement on promoting the engagement of national pharmacy associations in partnership with national TB programs. Only two of 14 countries’ national strategic plans had explicit statements on the need to engage their national pharmacy professional association. The success rate of referrals from retail drug outlets who visited an approved health facility for TB screening ranged from 48% in Vietnam to 86% in Myanmar. Coverage of retail drug outlets ranged from less than 5 to 9% of the universe of retail drug outlets.
For WHO’s End TB Strategy to be successful, scaling up retail drug outlets to increase national coverage, at least in countries with a thriving private sector, will be instrumental in accelerating the early detection and referral of the 3 million missing TB cases. The proposed PPM pharmacy model is applicable not only for TB control but also to tackle the antimicrobial resistance crisis in these countries.