In Uganda, around two thirds of medicines are procured from the private sector, mostly from drug shops. The introduction of malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) at drug shops therefore has the potential to make a significant contribution to targeting antimalarial drugs to those with malaria parasites. We undertook formative research in a district in Uganda in preparation for a randomised trial of RDTs in drug shops. In May to July 2009, we interviewed 9 drug shop workers, 5 health workers and 4 district health officials and carried out 10 focus group discussions with a total of 75 community members to investigate the role of drug shops and the potential for implementation of RDTs at these health care outlets.