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GPO pauses antigen test kits deal after skimping accusations

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PHOTO: A Covid-19 antigen test kits deal with the GPO is delayed for fears of inaccuracy. (via Flickr Marco Verch)

After a scathing letter from the Rural Doctors Society accusing the Government Pharmaceutical Organisation of basing their decision solely on price with no concern for quality or accuracy, the GPO walked back their plan to buy 8.5 million antigen test kits from Lepu Medical Technology of China. The purchase will be delayed in order to test the quality of the kits to ensure they are accurate in diagnosing Covid-19.

The permanent secretary for health and chairman of the GPO confirmed that after the statement from the Rural Doctors Society, the GPO as well as the Food and Drug Administration will do quality control testing. The Chinese company chosen to purchase the kits from is certified by the Thai FDA, but on May 28 the US FDA issued a warning that test kits produced by Lepu Medical Technology have a high risk of incorrect results and have been pulled from the US market.

On the other hand, the antigen test kits have been priced for sale to the GPO for just 70 baht per test, including all taxes and VAT.

The GPO was pushed to race to import 8.5 million antigen test kits by Rajavithi Hospital as medical facilities desperately need more capability to test quickly for Covid-19. That hospital along with the National Health Security Office set the requirements for the kits, with standards lower than those set by the World Health Organisation.

The contract with Lepu Medical Technology has not been signed yet, so the GPO was able to postpone the deal, said to be worth about 1 billion baht.

The statement by the Rural Doctors Society said the GPO should be choosing the manufacturer that produces high-quality tests with accurate results, and that cheap and inaccurate tests with false-positive results will only further spread Covid-19 via infected people who mistakenly believe themselves to be negative for the virus, and called on the GPO to not skimp on vital tools in the fight against Covid-19.

“Soldiers need high-quality tanks, planes and submarines to protect the country against invaders, so do doctors who need quality ATKs to fight COVID-19.”

SOURCE: Bangkok Post and Thai PBS World

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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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