The promise, problems and pitfalls of mass drug administration for malaria elimination: a qualitative study with scientists and policymakers
Kaehler N., Adhikari B., Cheah PY., Day NPJ., Paris DH., Tanner M., Pell C.
Abstract Background The emergence of artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) has prompted urgent containment measures. One possible approach is mass drug administration (MDA). This article explores attitudes towards and perceptions of MDA for malaria elimination among policymakers and leading malariologists. Methods Thirty-two semistructured interviews (SSI) were conducted with policymakers (n=17) and principal investigators (n=15) selected based on their involvement in malaria prevention, control and elimination in the GMS. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed for qualitative content (thematic) analysis using NVivo (QSR International, Doncaster, Victoria, Australia). Results Researchers and policymakers described reluctance and consequently delays to pilot MDA for malaria elimination. Most policymakers and some researchers reported concerns around the evidence base, citing a lack of data on its effectiveness and appropriate target populations. There were also worries about promoting resistance. Other issues included a previous lack of support from the World Health Organization, past MDAs, the remoteness of target populations and challenges explaining the rationale for MDA. Conclusions The complex rationale for MDA for malaria elimination, mistaking pilot studies for implementation, past experiences with MDA, difficulties in selecting appropriate sites and the WHO’s lack of clear backing undermined the support for MDA for malaria elimination.