January 15, 2021

Availability, Affordability, and Quality of Essential Antiepileptic Drugs in Lao PDR

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsia Open

Objective: Epilepsy is a chronic condition treatable by cost-effective antiepileptic drugs (AEDs), but limited access to treatment was documented. The availability and affordability of good quality of AEDs play a significant role in access to good health care. This study aimed to assess the availability, affordability, and quality of long-term AEDs in Lao PDR (Laos).

Method: A cross-sectional study was performed in both public and private drug supply chains in urban and rural areas in Lao PDR. Data on AEDs availability and price were obtained through drug suppliers. Affordability was estimated as the number of day wages the lowest-paid government employee must work to purchase a monthly treatment. Samples of AEDs were collected, and the quality of AEDs was assessed through Medicine Quality Assessment Reporting Guidelines.

Results: Out of 237 outlets visited, only 50 outlets (21.1% [95% CI 16.1?26.8]) had at least one AED available. The availability was significantly different between urban (24.9%) and rural areas (10.0%), P = .017. Phenobarbital 100 mg was the most available (14.3%); followed by sodium valproate 200 mg (9.7%), phenytoin 100 mg (9.7%), and carbamazepine 200 mg (8.9%). In provincial/district hospitals and health centers, AEDs were provided free of charge. In other healthcare facilities, phenytoin 100 mg and phenobarbital 100 mg showed the best affordability (1.0 and 1.2 day wages, respectively) compared to carbamazepine 200 mg (2.3 days) and other AEDs. No sample was identified as counterfeit, but 15.0% [95% CI 7.1?26.6] of samples were classified as of poor quality.

Significance: We quantified and qualified the various factors contributing to the high treatment gap in Lao PDR, adding to diagnostic issues (not assessed here). Availability remains very low and phenobarbital which is the most available and affordable AED was the worst in terms of quality. A drug policy addressing epilepsy treatment gap would reduce these barriers.

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