The Indian Council of Medical Research has appealed to the private labs to reduce the price for conducting the test for the diagnosis of COVID-19 infection. Importantly, the ICMR has made a similar appeal to all states and Union Territories calling for reducing the price for the COVID-19 test.
The move is likely to provide a big relief to those who have been waiting for their turn to get tested for COVID-19 infection at the government-run hospitals and to those who are willing to get the COVID-19 test done at private labs but are worried over its high price.
In a communication sent to the Chief Secretaries of all States and UTs, the Director-General of the ICMR, Balram Bhargava, stated that since the testing supplies are stabilizing and are being locally procured as against the earlier situation when all supplies were imported, the states should negotiate with private labs and fix a price for the test.
“The earlier suggested upper ceiling of Rs 4,500, vide letter dated March 17 may not be applicable now and, therefore, all state governments/UT administrations are advised to negotiate with the private labs and fix mutually agreeable price for samples being sent by the government also for private individuals desirous of testing by these labs,” the ICMR DG wrote in his letter.
The letter also highlights how India ramped up the testing infrastructure along with indigenous development, validation of new testing platforms like TrueNat based test for COVID-19 and including alternative testing platforms like CBNAAT/GeneXpert and Abbott HIV viral load testing machines besides validation and production of testing kits for RT-PCR tests in the recent past.
All these developments have led to the evolved prices of the testing commodities. Therefore, the earlier suggested upper ceiling may not be applicable now, it added. It may be noted that the power to fix the price for the test lies with the states.
In the initial stages of the corona breakout, there was a crisis of the testing kits and reagents as the country relied heavily on imports.
”Keeping in view the efforts and cost of the procurement, the ICMR suggested the upper limit of the test at Rs 4,500. But the situation has changed now. The states can now negotiate and bring the prices down,” the ICMR PRO said.
At present, there are 610 labs in the country out of which 432 are government-run labs while 178 are private labs, which conduct close to 1.5 lakh COVID-19 tests daily. The ICMR claims that more than 2 lakh COVID-19 tests would be conducted in government and private labs soon.