ICMR DG Prof (Dr) Balram Bhargava (file photo)
ICMR DG Prof (Dr) Balram Bhargava (file photo)

Prices of testing materials undergoing reduction; ICMR asks States, UTs to revise cost of COVID-19 tests

ANI | Updated: May 27, 2020 13:55 IST

By Priyanka Sharma
New Delhi [India], May 27 (ANI): The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has asked all states and Union Territories to revise the cost of RT-PCR tests for coronavirus at private laboratories, saying the prices of testing materials are "undergoing reduction."
ICMR Director General Prof (Dr) Balram Bhargava wrote a letter to the chief secretaries of the states and administrations of the Union Territories asking them to negotiate with private labs and fix up mutually agreeable prices for samples being sent by the government and to discuss with them the strategy for COVID-19 testing.
In the letter dated May 25, Bhargava said that the ICMR had earlier suggested the upper limit of a single test as Rs 4,500 keeping in view the cost of imported kits and efforts involved in carrying out the test.
"In the backdrop and keeping in view the evolving prices of the testing commodities, the earlier suggested upper ceiling of Rs 4,500 vide letter dated 17-3-2020 may not be applicable now and therefore, all State government/UT administrations are advised to negotiate with private labs and fix up mutually agreeable prices for samples being sent by the government and also for private individuals desirous of testing by these labs," Bhargava said in the letter.
He said that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, India was heavily reliant on imported products for the molecular detection of viruses and no rates for the RT-PCR test for coronavirus were available for reference in the country.
"Now, testing supplies are also stabilizing and many of you have started procuring such kits from the local market. Due to varied options of testing materials/kits including indigenous ones, the prices are becoming competitive and are undergoing reduction," the letter said.
"In this intervening period, all-out efforts have been made to facilitate local companies by handholding them to locally manufacture swabs, viral transport media, RNA extraction kits, indigenous diagnostic kits are being approved on fast track basis for RTPCR testing," it added.
The letter said that the Parallel and TrueNat based tests for COVID-19 have also been validated and included as testing modality at the level of district hospitals/ PHCs.
"Inclusion of other alternate platforms like CBNAAT/GeneXpert and Abott HIV viral load testing machines are further improving the situation. To sum up, concerted efforts have been made to ramp up the testing infrastructure along with indigenous development, validation, and production of testing kits RT-PCR tests," Bhargava said.
The ICMR DG appreciated the efforts made by these labs to contain the COVID-19 spread and said that that the council has continuously advocated aggressive testing of Influenza-like illness (ILI) symptomatic persons.
As of now, there are 428 government and 182 private labs conducting coronavirus testing across the country. ICRM has been making sincere efforts to provide testing kits and reagents through the 16 distribution depots created at various ICMR institutes.
So far, India has reported a total number of 1,51,767 cases of coronavirus, of which 64,425 have been cured/discharged while 4,337 have lost their lives. (ANI)