Over 75K COVID self-testing kits sold over a month in Hyd: Pharma Association

“The small retailers in the city are selling at least 15-20 kits every day while the big retailers are selling at least 60-70 kits every day. If we assume the total number of testing kits sold every day, it comes to around 2,500 to 3,000 kits. In the last month, around 75,000-90,000 kits were sold in the city,”

By Sumit Jha  Published on  25 Jan 2022 6:46 AM GMT
Over 75K COVID self-testing kits sold over a month in Hyd: Pharma Association

Hyderabad: As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state and as more people show symptoms of the virus, self-testing rapid antigen kits have become the go-to for many. People are using self-testing kits because they are efficient, cheap, and offer privacy from the public.

"I had a sore throat so I bought self-testing rapid antigen kits for Rs. 250 from the pharmacy. Sitting at my home, I got my test done in 15 minutes and it was negative. If I had gone to a private lab, I would have had to wait for 24 hours for the result. I would have become anxious just waiting for the report. Similarly, if I had gone to a government testing facility, I could have been exposed to some positive person and maybe I would have been infected," said Vamsi Chaitanya who tested himself with CoviSelf, a self-testing rapid antigen kit developed by Mylab Discovery Solutions.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has approved seven COVID-19 home/self-testing Rapid Antigen Tests (RATs). They include CoviSelf, PanBio by Abbott Rapid Diagnostics Division, CoviFind by Meril Diagnostics, Angcard by Angstrom Biotech, CliniTest by Healgen Scientific Limited, ULTRA by SD. Biosensor Healthcare, and Abcheck by Nulife Care. Six out of seven (except Angcard which uses saliva) use nasal swab samples for testing.

A home/self-testing kit is very similar to a Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) kit. The only difference is that a person does it all by himself or herself at home.

Recommended by doctors

The self-testing rapid antigen kits for COVID detection have been vanishing from the shelves of medical stores. People are picking up these self-testing kits from local pharmacists, from a small shop to a wholesale pharmacist, to test whether they have been affected by the virus. Even doctors are suggesting getting tested with self-testing kits.

"It is very useful as it avoids visits to a hospital especially during these times when they are overcrowded. It helps to redirect potential people who could spread the infection or get infected and instead makes way for testing at home and taking virtual medication thereafter," said Dr. Khizer Hussain Junaidy, a resident doctor of Gandhi Hospital in Hyderabad.

ICMR recommends that if a symptomatic person tests negative through self-testing kits, they must go for an RT-PCR test. If a person tests positive through those kits then there is no need for any further confirmation as per ICMR guidelines.

High demand

"When the self-testing kit was launched after a surge in cases during the second wave of COVID-19 in the country, there was some demand but then the cases subsided. The demand again rose in December 2021 after the third wave. People don't have any serious symptoms this time, but to confirm and get the right medication, they prefer home-testing kits," said Sarvesh Kanodia, a distributor of home test kits.

The demand for COVID-19 kits in retail shops is high. "The small retailers in the city are selling at least 15-20 kits every day while the big retailers are selling at least 60-70 kits every day. If we assume the total number of testing kits sold every day, it comes to around 2,500 to 3,000 kits. In the last month, around 75,000-90,000 kits were sold in the city," said Kishan Murari Shetty, general secretary of the Greater Hyderabad Retail Medical Shops Association (GHRMSA).

People are also buying home-testing kits from online platforms. "Due to the offers and discounts, people also prefer to buy it from Amazon or Flipkart. Also, if someone wants to keep the kits for future use, they are buying from online platforms," added Sarvesh Kanodia.

False negatives

Vamsi took a home test on Friday and tested negative. But on Saturday, he got a high fever and headache. "I consulted a doctor over the phone and told him that I have tested negative through a home kit. Knowing about my symptoms, the doctor advised me to get an RT-PCR test done in any lab. On Saturday, I gave the sample to a private lab and on Sunday, I tested positive for COVID-19 with a CT value of 23," said Vamsi Chaitanya.

According to ICMR, these RAT kits show a sensitivity of 50% and above and specificity of 95% and above. Sensitivity tells how well a test can detect the presence of COVID-19 or the probability of actual positives. Specificity on the other hand tells how well a test can confirm the absence of COVID-19 or the probability of actual negatives.

"We are not saying that the test kit is 100% accurate but we also look at how the person uses it at home. A person has to know how to use them correctly. At home, some don't know how to insert the probe correctly or they're taking the sample just from the outer part of the nose or tongue. If the test shows a positive, then it's a positive, but the chances of false negatives are quite high," said Sanjay Reddy Akula of Telangana Pharmacy Association.

Also, the reporting of these tests is not completely evaluated by the state health department. "We sell the kits. We ask the retailers to tell the consumer how to use it and most importantly for CoviSelf, they should download the app where they can report about it. But in most cases, these tests are not reported on the app and the state doesn't get to know of them. So, there might be underreporting because of non-reporting of these positive cases," said Sarvesh Kanodia.

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