The price control of the self-diagnostic antigen tests against the coronavirus, announced this morning by the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, has been received favorably by the pharmaceutical sector, consumer associations and political parties. However, there are several who point out that the measure is late and that it would have been needed at Christmas, when the unleashed demand exhausted the tests in pharmacies and prices soared. The experts also warn of the risks of adopting this type of action now that the supply has normalized and prices are falling again.
“The debate we had before or during this Christmas has been, above all, about the offer of these tests; there was an exponential increase in demand, but not in supply. This issue is now resolved; now we will get to control the price of antigen tests “, explained Sánchez in an interview with the SER string. In the same interview, the president announced the purchase of 344,000 doses of oral antivirals against COVID-19 from Pfizer this January.
Pharmacists applaud a decision, that of price control for antigen tests, which they welcome with relief. “It will contribute to putting an end to a situation that we have repeatedly denounced and of which pharmacists have been victims, due to excessive price increases and tensions in the market caused by actors outside the pharmaceutical channel,” stated the General Council of Pharmacy in a statement.
According to the specialized consulting firm Iqvia, between December 13 and 26, 11.2 million tests were sold in Spain, which represents more than half of the 20.4 million marketed in the country since the Ministry of Health gave in July green light for the sale of these devices in pharmacies.
A spokesman for Health has declined to offer more details about the content of the measure and when it could come into force, and has referred to the press conference that Minister Carolina Darias will offer next Wednesday after the celebration of the Interterritorial Health Council.
The first reactions to Sánchez’s announcement have been political. Pablo Montesinos, deputy secretary of communication of the PP, has celebrated it, although he recalled that the popular ones already demanded to act in this regard before Christmas. “The Government is always late, but at least it listens to our proposals,” Montesinos boasted.
The leader of Más Madrid, Íñigo Errejón, has expressed himself in similar terms when stating that the measure should have been promoted before the Christmas family reunions, although he has made it clear that “it is never too late if happiness is good.”
The consumer organization Facua, which had demanded price control before the holidays, has welcomed the announcement, although it has also regretted that it “is late” and that it would have been better to apply this measure before the “massive purchase” made. by millions of citizens ”.
A spokesman for the Federation of Pharmaceutical Distributors (FEDIFAR), which groups 19 wholesalers with a 97% market share, explained to this newspaper that the situation has practically returned to normal after the shortage experienced at Christmas. “There are tests in all pharmacies and prices are falling because now the situation is that the supply exceeds the demand,” says FEDIFAR. The entity also shows itself to “collaborate as much as possible” in the new announcement made by Sánchez.
The price of the self-diagnostic test, which is around five euros in normal situations, climbed two weeks ago to 10 or 12 euros, even more in some cases, given the shortage of product. According to the pharmacists, in those days they began to receive offers from new intermediaries who took advantage of the situation to offer them material at much higher prices, in a phenomenon that has continued until the supply by the large habitual suppliers has been normalized.
Price control is a measure that experts such as Beatriz González López-Valcárcel, professor and researcher in Health Economics, recommend taking only as a last resort. “It is something justified if it is found that the existing prices are abusive and have risen unjustifiably, although it also has its risks because it introduces distortions in the market. If the government imposes a low price that is not attractive to companies, which may prefer to sell to other countries, then a chronic shortage that is more difficult to solve can result. Price regulation is always delicate, ”explains González López-Valcárcel.
The purchase of 344,000 treatments of Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral whose efficacy against severe covid is around 90%, has been well received by Spanish doctors. Jesús Sierra, from the Spanish Society of Hospital Pharmacy (SEFH), highlights its “potential to reduce hospitalizations that currently occur among the two profiles with the highest risk: people who are not vaccinated and those who are, but who suffer from disease base or immunosuppression that weakens your immune response ”.
Among the great advantages of Paxlovid is the comfort of administration (it is taken orally) and the fact that treatment can begin immediately after the appearance of symptoms (the patient must take 30 pills for five days), before the clinical picture is complicated.
Paxlovid has not yet been authorized by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), although this body did issue on December 16 some first recommendations for those countries that would like to get ahead in their administration in emergency services and other devices.