Objectives: To mitigate the economic burden of tuberculosis (TB), it is important to fully understand the costs of TB treatment from the patient perspective. We therefore sought to quantify the patient-incurred cost of TB treatment in rural Malawi, with specific focus on costs borne by patients requiring inpatient hospitalisation. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 197 inpatients and 156 outpatients being treated for TB in rural Malawi. We collected data on out-of-pocket costs and lost wages, including costs to guardians. Costs for inpatient TB treatment were estimated and compared to costs for outpatient TB treatment. We then explored the equity distribution of inpatient TB treatment cost using concentration curves. Results: Despite free government services, inpatients were estimated to incur a mean of $137 (standard deviation: $147) per initial TB episode, corresponding to >50% of annual household spending among patients in the lowest expenditure quintile. Non-medical hospitalisation costs accounted for 88% of this total. Patients treated entirely as outpatients incurred estimated costs of $25 (standard deviation: $15) per episode. The concentration curves showed that, among individuals hospitalised for an initial TB episode, poorer patients shouldered a much greater proportion of inpatient TB treatment costs than wealthier ones (concentration index: −0.279). Conclusion: Patients hospitalised for TB in resource-limited rural Malawi experience devastating costs of TB treatment. Earlier diagnosis and treatment must be prioritised if we are to meet goals of effective TB control, avoidance of catastrophic costs and provision of appropriate patient-centred care in such settings.
- patient-incurred cost
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Infectious Diseases