–Official says test kit costs Rs3,000, as private labs charge over Rs7,000 for single test
LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided to enhance its testing capability to 15,000 Covid-19 tests per day as the province struggles to contain the outspread of the contagion.
At present, Punjab has over 35,000 positive Covid-19 cases while its testing capacity is about 8,000 daily tests.
According to Health Minister Yasmin Rashid, the testing capacity will be increased despite the fact a test costs the government at least Rs5,000, excluding the cost of human resources.
When Pakistan Today tried to find out the actual cost of the coronavirus testing kit in the country, it learned that the government has failed to regularise the price and private labs are deciding the cost of Covid-19 tests on their own.
According to a health official, Punjab procures kits from US and European companies, such as Roche and Abbot and a testing kits costs Rs3,000 at maximum. But still, a test at a private lab costs over Rs7,000 in the province.
Speaking about the disparity in prices, the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) chief said it was difficult to control the prices of the medical devices, such as Covid-19 kits, in the country just like the rest of the world.
He admitted that the prices of these kits were not regularised, but shifted the blame, saying DRAP only grants NOCs to companies dealing in such products. “DRAP can define only mechanisms, as pricing is the subject of pricing division. Despite formulating a mechanism to regularize the prices of kits the DRAP cannot control the private labs that are overcharging.”
But are private labs overcharging for Covid-19 tests? Chughtai Labs Operations Director Dr Omar didn’t think so. He said: “This is not the right perception that private labs are purchasing kits in low cost and testing on high rates because most of the time we have to repeat the tests.”
“The labs also have bear other costs, such as human resource and maintenance of its coronavirus testing apparatus among other things,” he said, adding that their staff is also at the risk of the deadly disease.
Chughtai lab is charging Rs7,900 for the corona test but for people who are 60 years or above, the lab is offering a direct 50 per cent discount, he added.
The health minister also seemed to be defending the private labs. When asked about the high cost of the Covid-19 tests, she replied, “If the private labs are charging over Rs7,000, then the price is not high as the labs have to take care of their staffers and other expenses.”