Economic evaluation of Mectizan distribution
The distribution of ivermectin has dramatically altered the nature of onchocerciasis control. Existing economic analyses of ivermectin distribution programmes show that these programmes have a highly beneficial impact. Most analyses have estimated the economic benefits in terms of increased labour productivity as a result of reductions in blindness, and in terms of additional land-availability because of a reduced transmission of the parasite. Economic evaluations of the Onchocerciasis Control Program (OPC) in West Africa have calculated a net present value – equivalent discounted benefits minus discounted costs – of $485 million for the programme over a 39-year period, using a conservative 10% rate to discount future health and productivity gains. The net present value for the African Program for Onchocerciasis Control (APOC) is calculated at $88 million over a 21-year time period, also using a 10% discount rate. Cost-effectiveness analyses of ivermectin distribution have found a cost of $14–$30 per disability-adjusted life-year prevented – estimates comparable with other priority disease control programmes. However, the economic success of ivermectin distribution is sensitive to the fact that the drug itself has been donated free of charge. The market value of Merck's donations to the APOC for just 1 year considerably outweighs the benefits calculated for both the OPC and the APOC over the life of these projects. Pending the development of an effective macrofilaricide, the distribution of ivermectin will remain a public health priority into the foreseeable future.