In Burkina Faso, malaria remains the first cause of medical consultation and hospitalization in health centres. First-line case management of malaria in the country’s health facilities is based on the use of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). To optimize the use of these anti-malarial drugs in the perspective of mitigating the emergence of artemisinin resistance, which is a serious threat to malaria control and elimination, a pilot programme using multiple first-line therapies (MFTs) [three artemisinin-based combinations—pyronaridine–artesunate, dihydroartemisinin–piperaquine and artemether-lumefantrine] has been designed for implementation. As the success of this MFT pilot programme depends on the perceptions of key stakeholders in the health system and community members, the study aimed to assess their perceptions on the implementation of this strategy.
Semi-structured interviews, including 27 individual in-depth interviews and 41 focus groups discussions, were conducted with key stakeholders including malaria control policymakers and implementers, health system managers, health workers and community members. Volunteers from targets stakeholder groups were randomly selected. All interviews were recorded, transcribed and translated. Content analysis was performed using the qualitative software programme QDA Miner.
The interviews revealed a positive perception of stakeholders on the implementation of the planned MFT programme. They saw the strategy as an opportunity to strengthen the supply of anti-malarial drugs and improve the management of fever and malaria. However, due to lack of experience with the products, health workers and care givers expressed some reservations about the effectiveness and side-effect profiles of the two anti-malarial drugs included as first-line therapy in the MFT programme (pyronaridine–artesunate, dihydroartemisinin–piperaquine). Questions were raised about the appropriateness of segmenting the population into three groups and assigning a specific drug to each group.
The adherence of both populations and key stakeholders to the MFT implementation strategy will likely depend on the efficacy of the proposed drugs, the absence of, or low frequency of, side-effects, the cost of drugs and availability of the different combinations.