Ensuring stricter test kit management

October 14, 2021 | 10:40
Varied prices of COVID-19 antigen rapid test kits have been an issue of concern in Vietnam in recent days. Deputy Minister of Health Tran Van Thuan talked to VIR’s Hoang Binh about the use of test kits in Vietnam, and future management.

What are the Ministry of Health’s (MoH) directions about the price of antigen rapid tests?

Ensuring stricter test kit management
Deputy Minister of Health Tran Van Thuan

The ministry has issued documents guiding units, cities, and provinces on purchase of biological testing products in line with the prevailing rules and strict punishments for wrongdoing related to tenders and purchases for profit or bribery.

For management of pricing of biological testing products, the MoH asks units to make public the price on the ministry’s e-portal. Up till now, the MoH has licensed 97 types of SARS-CoV-2 test kits, including 35 real-time PCR test kits, 39 antigen test kits, and 23 antibody test kits.

What is the foundation for calculating the price of testing?

For COVID-19 testing in public-run health facilities, the ministry has the documents asking them to calculate the price of antigen rapid tests based on practical spending and payment, specifically on the price of test kits, and related cost of consumable supplies.

The payment based on bidding results is approved by authorised agencies in line with the Law on Public Procurement. Also, the MoH has documents guiding the price of merged samples to reduce testing fees, especially for businesses.

Has the MoH made any decision on purchasing of antigen rapid tests and how has it been used over past months?

The MoH has yet to make any purchase of antigen rapid tests.

In line with current principles, units and cities and provinces did purchase and tender as regulated. However, as I know, they mostly used sponsored test kits. For example, in Ho Chi Minh City, it got 10 million test kits in sponsorship. The MoH also got donations of over 10 million test kits from international organisations and units and then distributed to cities and provinces.

With recent concerns, how will the ministry focus on the management of the price of antigen rapid tests?

The MoH has submitted to the government a draft decree on management of medical devices, including test kits, in which units are asked to make prices public to ensure transparency in purchase and bidding activities.

The ministry is also gathering ideas and comments to include COVID-19 test kits in the list of goods under price stablisation because this item is yet to be included in the current rules.

In addition, the MoH is asking suppliers of biological testing products to make weekly updates about the price and make it public on the healthcare service price declaration portal to ensure the transparency and to have competitive prices.

Besides that, the ministry requests units and localities to increase supervision and carry out strict inspection of tenders of biological testing products, as well as check and inspect health facilities providing testing services, and strictly punish any kind of wrong doing.

In line with the government’s directions, the MoH has taken a number of important measures and solutions to reduce prices of test kits.

Firstly, the MoH has asked public-run health facilities to adjust prices of test kits in stages. In 2020, the price of test kits was high as the global health crisis developed seriously worldwide, leading to the limited supply and categories of COVID-19 test kits amid huge demands in countries.

Since the summer, due to an abundant supply of rapid test kits from imports and local production, the price of test kits has varied. The MoH has asked units to calculate the price based on practical spending and payment. It also has guidance on the testing price of emerging samples to save costs.

Currently, the MoH is drafting a circular on the price levels of test kits and is seeking ideas from ministries and units for issuance. It is also proposing adding COVID-19 test kits to the list of items under price stabilisation.

Secondly, the MoH has been taking measures to increase the supply of test kits via diplomacy channels and negotiations with prestigious global producers of test kits to buy a huge number at the lowest possible price.

The MoH also encourages powerful domestic groups to buy test kits from powerful global groups and then resell to localities at no profit, and to negotiate with international partners in the EU and the US on the production of test kits.

The third factor is ensuring transparency and creating favourable conditions for units to join the market to have a competitive price. The ministry is also intensifying investigation and inspection to detect wrongdoings.

By Hoang Binh

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