Covid-19 PCR test costs reduced after commission finds price 'abuse' by private labs

12 December 2021 - 12:24
Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele announced a lower cost for users of the PCR tests.
Competition Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele announced a lower cost for users of the PCR tests.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

South Africans will no longer be paying exorbitant prices for Covid-19 tests after an investigation into “unfairly inflated, exorbitant and, or unjustifiable” prices charged to consumers by private laboratories.

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests will  now be reduced from R850 to R500 including VAT.

The PCR tests detect genetic material from a specific organism, such as a virus, and are now the standard proof for travel and other purposes.

In a media announcement on Sunday, the Competition Commission revealed that the authority reached a “ground-breaking” agreement with two major laboratories, Du Buisson Kramer Swart Bouwer Incorporated, who own Ampath, and Drs Mauff AC & Partners t/a Lancet Laboratories, who own Lancet Laboratories, about a substantial reduction in Covid-19 PCR test prices.

On October 8, the commission received a formal complaint from the Council for Medical Schemes against private pathology laboratories alleging that the price for supplying PCR tests for Covid-19 are “unfairly inflated, exorbitant and, or unjustifiable”.

Between September and October 2021, the commission was alerted through a number of meetings and telephonic conversations, including discussions with the national health department and healthcare funders, of possible pricing abuse for Covid-19 PCR tests, to the detriment of vulnerable consumers and customers.

Competition commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said private pathology laboratories experienced substantial cost reductions and were processing higher volumes, but still continued to charge high and unchanged pricing at R850.

Bonakele stated that despite these abuses, the commission would not be conducting investigations and fining the companies because of the ever-changing nature of the virus. He said these costs would be adjusted as time went on.

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