BACKGROUND: Recently, there has been a shift in onchocerciasis control policy, changing from prevention of morbidity toward elimination of infection. Switching from annual to biannual ivermectin distribution may accelerate progress toward the elimination goals. However, the settings where this strategy would be cost effective in Africa have not been described.<br /><br />METHODS: An onchocerciasis transmission framework (EpiOncho) was coupled to a disease model in order to explore the impact on disability-adjusted life years averted, program cost, and program duration of biannual ivermectin treatment in different epidemiological and programmatic scenarios in African savannah.<br /><br />RESULTS: While biannual treatment yields only small additional health gains, its benefit is pronounced in the context of the elimination goals, shortening the time frames for and increasing the feasibility of reaching the proposed operational thresholds for stopping treatment. In settings with high precontrol endemicity (and/or poor coverage and compliance), it may not be possible to reach such thresholds even within 50 years of annual ivermectin, requiring adoption of biannual treatment. Our projections highlight the crucial role played by coverage and compliance in achieving the elimination goals.<br /><br />CONCLUSIONS: Biannual ivermectin treatment improves the chances of reaching the 2020/2025 elimination goals, potentially generating programmatic cost savings in settings with high precontrol endemicity. However, its benefit and cost are highly sensitive to levels of systematic noncompliance and, in many settings, it will lead to an increase in costs. Furthermore, it may not always be feasible to implement biannual treatment, particularly in hard-to-reach populations. This highlights the continued need for a macrofilaricide.
Turner, H. C., Walker, M., Churcher, T. S., Osei-Atweneboana, M. Y., Biritwum, N. K., Hopkins, A., … Basáñez, M. G. (2014). Reaching the London declaration on neglected tropical diseases goals for onchocerciasis: An economic evaluation of increasing the frequency of ivermectin treatment in Africa. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 59(7), 923–932. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciu467