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Government says yes, no, yes, no, yes on Chinese ATK deal

Neill Fronde

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PHOTO: dribbble.com

If you are a casual reader of The Thaiger you are may have read that the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation made a deal to import 8.5 million antigen test kits at the urging of hospitals desperate to quickly test and treat Covid-19 patients. Perhaps you even followed up and learned about the pause on purchasing after the Rural Doctors Society blasted the GPO for going for the cheapest option despite the brand of ATK being pulled from US shelves after warnings of inaccuracy from the US FDA.

Maybe you’re an avid reader and saw that a mere 2 days later Thailand’s FDA claimed their tests were just as thorough as international standards and the Chinese-made ATK was approved by the Thai FDA and the deal would proceed. And the most loyal readers will know that one week later the cabinet stepped in to stop the deal saying that any kit that was purchased must meet World Health Organisation standards.

So what does a government do if they want to import antigen test kits that don’t meet WHO standards? We bet you can guess what’s next.

Today, the requirement that the GPO must purchase only antigen test kits that have been approved by the WHO has been lifted and the contract to buy 8.5 million ATKs from Chinese manufacturer Lepu Medical Technology is back on, despite warnings that they are inaccurate.

The GPO will sign contracts Monday with Ostland Capital to facilitate the procurement of the 8.5 million kits at 70 baht each now that the WHO certification requirement has been removed. The National Health Security Office will receive the kits, with the GPO facilitating the purchase.

The government justified the removal of the WHO approval requirement by saying that the WHO has not approved any ATK intended for home use. But the kits will be distributed by the NHSO to public health facilities and pharmacies in their network, despite the kits not being intended for professional use.

Those who test negative at healthcare facilities but are high risk will be given an extra kit to take home to test themselves again later. The NHSO will also distribute kits directly to the public in densely populated communities for free.

SOURCE: National News Bureau of Thailand

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Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10 years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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