To investigate the quality of malaria case management in Cameroon 5 years after the adoption of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). Treatment patterns were examined in different types of facility, and the factors associated with being prescribed or receiving an ACT were investigated.
A cross-sectional cluster survey was conducted among individuals of all ages who left public and private health facilities and medicine retailers in Cameroon and who reported seeking treatment for a fever. Prevalence of malaria was determined by rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) in consenting patients attending the facilities and medicine retailers.
Among the patients, 73% were prescribed or received an antimalarial, and 51% were prescribed or received an ACT. Treatment provided to patients significantly differed by type of facility: 65% of patients at public facilities, 55% of patients at private facilities and 45% of patients at medicine retailers were prescribed or received an ACT (P = 0.023). The odds of a febrile patient being prescribed or receiving an ACT were significantly higher for patients who asked for an ACT (OR = 24.1, P < 0.001), were examined by the health worker (OR = 1.88, P = 0.021), had not previously sought an antimalarial for the illness (OR = 2.29, P = 0.001) and sought treatment at a public (OR = 3.55) or private facility (OR = 1.99, P = 0.003). Malaria was confirmed in 29% of patients and 70% of patients with a negative result were prescribed or received an antimalarial.
Malaria case management could be improved. Symptomatic diagnosis is inefficient because two-thirds of febrile patients do not have malaria. Government plans to extend malaria testing should promote rational use of ACT; though, the introduction of rapid diagnostic testing needs to be accompanied by updated clinical guidelines that provide clear guidance for the treatment of patients with negative test results.