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Open Access Availability of diagnostic services and essential medicines for non‐communicable respiratory diseases in African countries

This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

BACKGROUND: The global burden of disease due to asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is substantial and particularly great in low‐ and middle‐income countries, including many African countries. Management is affected by availability of diagnostic tests and essential medicines. The study aimed to explore the availability of spirometry services and essential medicines for asthma and COPD in African countries.

METHOD: Questionnaires were delivered to healthcare workers at the annual meeting of the Pan African Thoracic Society Methods in Epidemiology and Clinical Research (PATS MECOR) and International Multidisciplinary Programme to Address Lung Health and TB in Africa (IMPALA). Data were analysed using simple descriptive statistics.

RESULTS: A total of 37 questionnaires representing 13 African countries were returned. Spirometry availability was 73.0%. The most common reasons for non‐availability were lack of knowledge of the utility of the test. Within the study sample, 33.3% faced sporadic availability due to maintenance issues. Essential medicines availability ranged from 37.8% for inhaled corticosteroid‐long‐acting beta‐agonist inhalers to 100% for prednisolone 5 mg tablets, mainly due to supply chain problems.

CONCLUSION: There is varied availability of spirometry and WHO essential medicines for COPD and asthma in African countries. Strategies are needed to improve access to basic effective care for people with non‐communicable lung disease in Africa.

Keywords: COPD; asthma; spirometry

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool 2: Institute of Infection, Veterinary and Ecological Sciences, Liverpool, UK 3: Education for Health Africa, Durban, South Africa 4: School of Population Health, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand 5: College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria

Publication date: February 1, 2021

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