Plea seeks direction to Centre to fix maximum rate of RT-PCR test at Rs 400 uniformly across the country.
New Delhi: As the prices for the RT-PCR test kits used for testing the Covid-19 virus fall sharply across India, prices for Covid-19 testing in laboratories still remain very high in many states.
The test kits for RT-PCR (Real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction) test, which is considered as the gold standard test for the detection of the Covid-19 virus, are priced anywhere between Rs 199 to Rs 650 in the open market, while the prices for the test by laboratories are somewhere between Rs 900 to Rs 2,800 in different states.
A thorough search for Covid-19 test kits with online wholesalers shows that the RT-PCR test kits from Mylab are available at Rs 250 per kit, while another French based company’s “GeneStore Détection Expert” is available at Rs 199 in the Indian market. But the RT-PCR test in Delhi is charged somewhere between Rs 2,200 to Rs 2,400 by laboratories in the national capital.
Earlier, the test for Covid-19 was priced at Rs 4,500 in the national capital. It was brought down by the Delhi government in June this year to Rs 2,400. But ever since then, the Delhi government has not revised the price for the test in the national capital. The prices for the same RT-PCR test for Covid-19 is priced differently in different states. For example, a RT-PCR test in Haryana costs Rs 900, while the same RT-PCR is charged at Rs 1,600 by private laboratories in Uttar Pradesh. States like Bengal and Gujarat have capped the price for RT-PCR test by laboratories at Rs 1,500. In Kerala, the same RT-PCR test costs Rs 2,100, while in Assam, it is Rs 2,200 and in Meghalaya, it is Rs 3,000.
Keeping in view such huge differences in the prices of RT-PCR test across different states, a petition in the Supreme Court has been filed by a Delhi-based lawyer Ajay Agarwal, seeking uniformity in the pricing of the test across the country.
In his petition, he has pleaded before the apex court to direct the Central government to fix the maximum rate of RT-PCR test for Covid-19 at Rs 400 uniformly across the country, instead of state governments fixing their own prices. Agarwal has also pleaded before the court to review the prices of the testing across the India every 15 days.
Speaking to The Sunday Guardian, Ajay Agarwal asked that when the test kits are available at such lower prices, why are tests for Covid-19 being conducted at such high prices.
“A test kit for Covid-19 RT-PCR costs Rs 199 and as a proof of this, I have submitted quotations that I have taken from a company which said that its test kit costs Rs 199 and the same test is done at Rs 2,400 in Delhi. Why is there such a huge difference? The price for Covid-19 RT-PCR test is 250% over the cost of the test kit. Moreover, the machines which are used for conducting the RT-PCR test are not new ones, they are already available with laboratories as it is the same machine that detects HIV virus, malaria, chickenguniya, dengue, tuberculosis, etc.”
“Even if the laboratories say that they have to take into account the price of PPE kits, masks etc, it should not be charged more than Rs 600. Now in Delhi, SpiceJet has come up with a similar RT-PCR test for Rs 499. How are they being able to do it, when they are new in this business? I am sure they have purchased all new equipment for this,” Agarwal said.
Agarwal has submitted a quotation from a Nagpur-based Covid-19 RT-PCR test kit manufacturer Orange City Glassco Pvt Ltd to the Supreme Court in his petition which said that the cost of RT-PCR test kit is Rs 199 and an additional discount of Rs 25 on each test kit would be provided by the company if more than one lakh such test kits are ordered.
Hearing the plea filed by Ajay Agarwal, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde issued a notice to the Centre and posted the matter for hearing after two weeks. The court will examine the issue on the next day of the hearing. Besides, the court will also examine a pending petition seeking subsidy on the treatment of coronavirus in private hospitals.