Both under- and over-treatment of communicable diseases are public bads. But efforts to decrease one run the risk of increasing the other. Using rich experimental data on household treatment-seeking behavior in Kenya, we study the implications of this trade-off for subsidizing life-saving antimalarials sold over-the-counter at retail drug outlets. We show that a very high subsidy (such as the one under consideration by the international community) dramatically increases access, but nearly one-half of subsidized pills go to patients without malaria. We study two ways to better target subsidized drugs: reducing the subsidy level, and introducing rapid malaria tests over-the-counter.
American Economic Review
June 18, 2015