Open Access Research article

Irrational use of antimalarial drugs in rural areas of eastern Pakistan: a random field study

Shafaat Yar Khan1*, Ahmad Khan1, Muhammad Arshad1, Hafiz Muhammad Tahir1, Muhammad Khalid Mukhtar1, Khawaja Raees Ahmad1 and Najma Arshad2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biological Sciences, University of Sargodha, Sargodha, Pakistan

2 Department of Zoology, University of Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:941  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-941

Published: 1 November 2012

Abstract

Background

Prescription of antimalarial drugs in the absence of malarial disease is a common practice in countries where malaria is endemic. However, unwarranted use of such drugs can cause side effects in some people and is a financial drain on local economies. In this study, we surveyed the prevalence of malaria parasites in humans, and the prevalence of the malaria transmitting mosquito vectors in the study area. We also investigated the use of antimalarial drugs in the local people. We focused on randomly selected rural areas of eastern Pakistan where no malaria cases had been reported since May 2004.

Methods

Mass blood surveys, active case detection, passive case detection, and vector density surveys were carried out in selected areas of Sargodha district from September 2008 to August 2009. Data pertaining to the quantities and types of antimalarial drugs used in these areas were collected from health centers, pharmacies, and the district CDC program of the Health Department of the Government of the Punjab.

Results

Seven hundred and forty four blood samples were examined, resulting in a Blood Examination Rate (BER) of 3.18; microscopic analysis of blood smears showed that none of the samples were positive for malaria parasites. Investigation of the mosquito vector density in 43 living rooms (bedrooms or rooms used for sleeping), 23 stores, and 32 animal sheds, revealed no vectors capable of transmitting malaria in these locations. In contrast, the density of Culex mosquitoes was high. Substantial consumption of a variety of antimalarial tablets, syrups, capsules and injections costing around 1000 US$, was documented for the region.

Conclusion

Use of antimalarial drugs in the absence of malarial infection or the vectors that transmit the disease was common in the study area. Continuous use of such drugs, not only in Pakistan, but in other parts of the world, may lead to drug-induced side effects amongst users. Better training of health care professionals is needed to ensure accurate diagnoses of malaria and appropriate prescription of antimalarial drugs delivered to communities.

Keywords:
Malaria; Plasmodium; Eastern Pakistan; Antimalarial drugs; Mosquito vectors; Diagnosis; Blood Examination Rate (BER)