MSF Calls On COVID-19 Test Manufacturer To Further Slash Prices  

Humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has called on US diagnostics corporation Cepheid, which produces the GeneXpert testing machines that run COVID-19 tests, to immediately reduce the prices for the tests to allow for more people to be diagnosed as the pandemic continues to ravage parts of the world.

MSF’s plea comes after Cepheid on Thursday announced that it will reduce the price of its new 10-color IV-4 GeneXpert machines from US$19,000 to $15,800, and additionally offer countries buying those machines ‘100 COVID-19 tests for free’.  Similar bundled price reductions for the larger XVI GeneXpert machines and COVID-19 and TB tests have also been announced. 

Stijn Deborggraeve, Diagnostic Advisor, MSF Access Campaign however slammed the company’s announcement, saying it was “another sign that the corporation is not actually willing to make a real commitment to increasing access to affordable tests in low- and middle-income countries, and is prioritising its profits over people’s lives”.

Deborggraeve said the price “reduction” was not meaningful, but rather a way to “promote their newer testing devices”.

“The COVID-19 pandemic should not be used by Cepheid to profiteer by charging low- and middle-income countries over four times the price it costs to produce the COVID-19 tests. It’s high time for Cepheid to do what’s right and immediately provide countries with real price reductions for the COVID-19 test, so more tests can be run and more people diagnosed as the pandemic continues to rage across many parts of the globe.” 

MSF together with the Treatment Action Group (TAG) and more than 140 other civil society organisations sent open letters on 24 February and 1 April to express concerns about the impact of Cepheid overcharging low- and middle-income countries for COVID-19 tests, and to ask for a significant and immediate price reduction of the tests. 

Cepheid has set the price for each COVID-19 test at $19.80, which is at least 400% more than it costs the corporation to produce the test, based on MSF’s analysis of the cost of manufacturing Cepheid’s similar TB and HIV tests. The analysis shows that the corporation could still make a profit by selling each test for $5 or less.  

MSF repeated its call for Cepheid to reduce the price of the COVID-19 test and all other GeneXpert tests to no more than $5 each. 

“It is unacceptable that Cepheid sells the COVID-19 tests to low- and middle-income countries at a price over four times higher than it costs to produce the test, while Cepheid’s annual revenue has doubled during the pandemic, reaching over $2 billion, largely from the sale of COVID-19 tests,” said MSF in its statement.

Image Credits: UCT.

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