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Free Content Tuberculosis control and the private health sector in Bolivia: a survey of pharmacies

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BACKGROUND: Bolivia is a high tuberculosis (TB) incidence country with a large private for-profit health sector. TB drug sales in private pharmacies are not illegal.

OBJECTIVES: To measure the availability of TB drugs in private pharmacies, study vendors' attitudes, and explore the potential for collaboration between the public health sector and pharmacies.

METHODS: Simulated clients visited a random sample of 100 pharmacies in the city of Cochabamba, presenting with a prescription for four TB drugs. After the survey, contacts were made with the local Pharmacist's Association.

RESULTS: Twenty-five pharmacies sold at least one drug, 23 sold rifampicin and 16 sold isoniazid. Of 99 pharmacies unable to fill the whole prescription, 59 referred the client to another pharmacy, and 22 to the public services. Pharmacists said that rifampicin was often prescribed for non-TB indications, and that TB drug sales were of minimal contribution to their income. They agreed to stop selling the drugs and to refer clients seeking them to the public sector.

CONCLUSION: This study has documented a small market for TB drugs sales in private pharmacies and provided the opportunity to start collaboration with the pharmacists. Our results suggest that the private sector contributes little to managing TB in Bolivia.
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Keywords: Bolivia; pharmacies; private health sector; tuberculosis; tuberculosis control

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Epidemiology Unit, Public Health Department, Institute for Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium 2: Institute of Biomedical Research, Faculty of Medicine, San Simon University, Cochabamba, Bolivia 3: Belgian Technical Cooperation, Cochabamba, Bolivia 4: Chest Specialist Society, Cochabamba, Bolivia

Publication date: 2004-11-01

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  • The International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease publishes articles on all aspects of lung health, including public health-related issues such as training programmes, cost-benefit analysis, legislation, epidemiology, intervention studies and health systems research. The IJTLD is dedicated to the continuing education of physicians and health personnel and the dissemination of information on tuberculosis and lung health world-wide.

    Certain IJTLD articles are selected for translation into French, Spanish, Chinese or Russian. They are available on the Union website

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