Open Access Research article

Cost-effectiveness analysis of malaria chemoprophylaxis for travellers to West-Africa

Lukas L Widmer1, Patricia R Blank2, Koen Van Herck3, Christoph Hatz1 and Patricia Schlagenhauf1*

Author Affiliations

1 University of Zürich Centre for Travel Medicine, WHO Collaborating Centre for Travellers' Health, Hirschengraben 84, 8001 Zürich, Switzerland

2 Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Departement of Health Economics, University of Zurich, Hirschengraben 84, 8001 Zurich, Switzerland

3 Centre for the Evaluation of Vaccination, Vaccine & Infectious Disease Institute (VAXINFECTIO), University of Antwerp, Campus Drie Eiken (R2.17b), Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610 Antwerp, Belgium

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:279  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-279

Published: 22 September 2010



The importation of malaria to non-endemic countries remains a major cause of travel-related morbidity and a leading cause of travel-related hospitalizations. Currently they are three priority medications for malaria prophylaxis to West Africa: mefloquine, atovaquone/proguanil and doxycycline. We investigate the cost effectiveness of a partial reimbursement of the cheapest effective malaria chemoprophylaxis (mefloquine) for travellers to high risk areas of malaria transmission compared with the current situation of no reimbursement.


This study is a cost-effectiveness analysis based on malaria cases imported from West Africa to Switzerland from the perspective of the Swiss health system. We used a decision tree model and made a literature research on the components of travel related malaria. The main outcome measure was the cost effectiveness of malaria chemoprophylaxis reimbursement based on malaria and deaths averted.


Using a program where travellers would be reimbursed for 80% of the cost of the cheapest malaria chemoprophylaxis is dominant (i.e. cost saving and more effective than the current situation) using the assumption that currently 68.7% of travellers to West Africa use malaria chemoprophylaxis. If the current usage of malaria chemoprophylaxis would be higher, 82.4%, the incremental cost per malaria case averted is € 2'302. The incremental cost of malaria death averted is € 191'833.

The most important factors influencing the model were: the proportion of travellers using malaria chemoprophylaxis, the probability of contracting malaria without malaria chemoprophylaxis, the cost of the mefloquine regimen, the decrease in the number of travellers without malaria chemoprophylaxis in the reimbursement strategy.


This study suggests that a reimbursement of 80% of the cost of the cheapest effective malaria chemoprophylaxis (mefloquine) for travellers from Switzerland to West Africa is highly effective in terms of malaria cases averted and is cost effective to the Swiss health system. These data are relevant to discussions about the cost effectiveness of malaria chemoprophylaxis reimbursement for vulnerable groups such as those visiting friends and relatives who have the highest risk of malaria, who are least likely to use chemoprophylaxis.