Health System Barriers to Access and Use of Magnesium Sulfate for Women with Severe Pre-eclampsia and Eclampsia in Pakistan: Evidence for Policy and Practice
(2013; 9 pages)


Severe pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are rare but serious complications of pregnancy that threaten the lives of mothers during childbirth. Evidence supports the use of magnesium sulfate (MgSO4) as the first line treatment option for severe preeclampsia and eclampsia. Eclampsia is the third major cause of maternal mortality in Pakistan. As in many other Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMIC), it is suspected that MgSO4 is critically under-utilized in the country. There is however a lack of information on context-specific health system barriers that prevent optimal use of this life-saving medicine in Pakistan. Combining quantitative and qualitative methods, namely policy document review, key informant interviews, focus group discussions and direct observation at health facility, we explored context-specific health system barriers and enablers that affect access and use of MgSO4 for severe pre-eclampsia and eclampsia in Pakistan. Our study finds that while international recommendations on MgSO4 have been adequately translated in national policies in Pakistan, the gap remains in implementation of national policies into practice. Barriers to access to and effective use of MgSO4 occur at health facility level where the medicine was not available and health staff was reluctant to use it. Low price of the medicine and the small market related to its narrow indications acted as disincentives for effective marketing. Results of our survey were further discussed in a multi-stakeholder round-table meeting and an action plan for increasing access to this life-saving medicine was identified.

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