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BACKGROUND: The prevalence of epilepsy is high in Madagascar (23.5/1000), as is the treatment gap (estimated at 92 %). The health system of the country is underfunded; some AEDs are used, and the national drug policy does not encourage price regulation or the administration of generic agents. We conducted a cross-sectional study to assess the availability and cost of solid oral AED formulations in Antananarivo, capital of Madagascar. Data were gathered from all officially registered pharmacies (according to the drug agency list, updated in 2015) by means of telephone interviews lasting no more than 10 min and conducted by a native Malagasy speaker. With regard to other sources (hospitals, illicit sales) data were obtained at specific visits. The study received ethical approval from the Madagascar Ministry of Health. FINDINGS: A total of 91 of 100 pharmacies (the nine not included were because of an inoperative phone number), two of three public hospitals, and two illegal outlets were investigated. Sodium valproate was available in 84.6 % of the pharmacies, while carbamazepine and phenobarbital were available in 68.1 % and 36.3 % of the pharmacies, respectively, but phenytoin was not available in any supply chain. There were more originator brands than generic formulations, with a higher cost (range 20.3-81.1 %, median 40.7 %) compared to the equivalent generic. The public system had only a very limited choice of AED, but offered the lowest costs. Illicit sources were more expensive by 54.3 % for carbamazepine and 62.5 % for phenobarbital. Concerning the annual cost of treatment, the average percentage of the gross national income per capita based on the purchasing power parity was 29.8 %/19.0 % (brand/generic) for sodium valproate, 16.4 %/7.3 % (brand/generic) for carbamazepine, 8.9 %/5.1 % (brand/generic) for phenobarbital. CONCLUSIONS: The main sources of AEDs were private pharmacies, but the stocks held were low. The financial burden was still important in the capital of Madagascar, mainly the consequence of a highly developed private sector at the expense of the public sector. Although sodium valproate remains the most expensive solution, it still remains the most available instead of phenobarbital. The most striking feature of this study concerns the cost of AEDs in the informal sector, mostly used because they are deemed to provide less costly drugs, the opposite was observed there. The assessment of the cost and availability of medicines was easily and quickly implemented. It provided a relevant focus of the situation in areas difficult to investigate, in terms of road network and geographical situation.

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