Trends in Antimalarial Prescriptions in Australia from 1998 to 2002

Peter A. Leggat
DOI: 338-342 First published online: 1 November 2005


Background Previous research in a number of countries has suggested considerable variability in prescribing patterns of antimalarial drugs. The aim of this study was to investigate the trends in prescription of antimalarial drugs recommended for chemoprophylaxis in Australia from 1998 to 2002.

Methods In 2005 data was extracted from the online Australian Statistics on Medicines reports published by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, Drug Utilization Sub-committee, on antimalarials used in Australia from 1998 to 2002.

Results Doxycycline probably remains the malaria chemoprophylaxis of choice prescribed for Australians visiting multiple drug–resistant malarious areas. Over the past 10 years, there has been marked drop in the prescription of less useful antifolate drugs such as pyrimethamine combination antimalarial drugs, especially pyrimethamine plus dapsone, which was withdrawn by 1999. There has also been a reduction in the number of prescriptions for chloroquine, mefloquine, and proguanil. The number of prescriptions for atovaquone and proguanil remain small, although they have increased steadily since its introduction in 2000, in the absence of a recommendation in the prevailing Australian guidelines.

Conclusions The prescription of antimalarials such as proguanil, chloroquine, mefloquine, and the pyrimethamine-containing compounds reduced considerably between 1998 and 2002. This was probably largely influenced by the availability of antimalarials, increasing resistance, the issuing of updated guidelines for malaria chemoprophylaxis, and continuing education. Newer drugs such as atovaquone plus proguanil may displace older antimalarials, particularly in the prevention of Plasmodium falciparum infection.