October 2017 – International charity Lepra has found that non-compliance of preventative medication is one of the biggest challenges to the total eradication of lymphatic filariasis in India (LF), despite the latest progress report by the World Health Organisation (WHO) which indicates that the country is achieving strong geographical coverage of mass drug administration (MDA).

A recent study conducted by Lepra, who works to support people affected by LF alongside their work to beat leprosy, indicated that in the five targeted districts of Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, only 17.9% of people took the preventative medicine in 2015.

In 2016, despite gaining 76.9% geographical coverage when distributing the medicine, India failed transmission assessment surveys in 41 districts. This means that in these areas, the country is unable to prove the effectiveness of the mass drug administration (MDA).

The non-compliance of medication which is distributed yearly to households in endemic areas means that the disease remains prevalent.

LF is transmitted by mosquitos which carry the disease and causes severe fever and life-changing swelling to the affected body parts. A way to increase vector control is through improving hygiene and drainage conditions – areas the Indian Government are also working to address.

Lepra states that implementing health education alongside MDA encourages greater levels of compliance. This is evidenced from the same study undertaken by Lepra in the in Andhra Pradesh showed compliance levels of 90%.

Geoff Prescott, Chief Executive of Lepra, said without encouraging compliance, LF will remain prevalent in endemic areas:

“It’s imperative that governments, NGOs and local authorities redouble their efforts to ensure that people actually do take the treatment. If you don’t take the drug, you don’t kill the parasites – which is why compliance is equally as important as distributing the medicines in order to work towards total eradication.”