Equitable access to affordable medicines and diagnostic tests is an integral component of optimal clinical care of patients with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In Uganda, we lack contemporary data about the availability, cost and affordability of medicines and diagnostic tests essential in asthma and COPD management.
Data on the availability, cost and affordability of 17 medicines and 2 diagnostic tests essential in asthma and COPD management were collected from 22 public hospitals, 23 private and 85 private pharmacies. The percentage of the available medicines and diagnostic tests, the median retail price of the lowest priced generic brand and affordability in terms of the number of days’ wages it would cost the least paid public servant were analysed.
The availability of inhaled short acting beta agonists (SABA), oral leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRA), inhaled LABA-ICS combinations and inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) in all the study sites was 75%, 60.8%, 46.9% and 45.4% respectively. None of the study sites had inhaled long acting anti muscarinic agents (LAMA) and inhaled long acting beta agonist (LABA)-LAMA combinations. Spirometry and peak flow-metry as diagnostic tests were available in 24.4% and 6.7% of the study sites respectively. Affordability ranged from 2.2 days’ wages for inhaled salbutamol to 17.1 days’ wages for formoterol/budesonide inhalers and 27.8 days’ wages for spirometry.
Medicines and diagnostic tests essential in asthma and COPD care are not widely available in Uganda and remain largely unaffordable. Strategies to improve access to affordable asthma and COPD medicines and diagnostic tests should be implemented in Uganda.