Availability and affordability of medicines and diagnostic tests recommended for management of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review

Research    Open Access
Davis Kibirige Email authorRichard E. SanyaRebecca NantandaWilliam Worodria and Bruce Kirenga



Early accurate diagnosis and sustainable availability of affordable medicines and diagnostic tests is fundamental in optimal management of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). We systematically reviewed original research articles about availability and affordability of medicines and diagnostic tests recommended for management of asthma and COPD in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).


We searched PubMed, Scopus and African Journal Online for original research articles conducted in SSA between 2000 and March 2018 containing information about availability and affordability of any recommended medicine and diagnostic test for asthma and COPD.


The search yielded 9 eligible research articles. Availability of short-acting beta agonists (SABA), inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) and short acting anti-muscarinic agents (SAMA) ranged between 19.9–100%, 0–45.5% and 0–14.3% respectively. Combination of ICS-long acting beta agonists (LABA) were available in 0–14.3% of facilities surveyed. There was absence of inhaled long acting anti-muscarinic agents (LAMA) and LAMA/LABA combinations. Spirometry and peak expiratory flow devices were available in 24.4–29.4% and 6.7–53.6% respectively. Affordability of SABA and ICS varied greatly, ranging from < 2 to 107 days’ wages while ICS–LABA combinations, SAMA and oral theophylline plus leukotriene receptor antagonists cost 6.4–17.1, 13.7 and 6.9 days’ wages respectively.


Availability and affordability of medicines and diagnostics recommended for the management of asthma and COPD is a big challenge in SSA. Research about this subject in this region is still limited. More robustly performed studies are required to further understand the magnitude of inequity in access to these medicines and diagnostic tests in SSA and also to formulate simple pragmatic solutions to address this challenge.

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Editor: Juan C. Ivancevich, MD

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