Spain set this Thursday at €2.94 the maximum selling price in pharmacies for self-diagnosis tests for the covid-19 disease, after the controversy caused by shortages and high prices during the Christmas season.
The decision was taken at the Interministerial Commission on Drug Prices, a collegiate body of the Ministry of Health that also includes representatives of the Spanish autonomous communities, which have autonomy in the health sector.
The measure comes into force on Saturday, once it is published in the Official State Gazette (corresponding to the Diário da República in Portugal), according to the Minister of Health, Carolina Darias.
Regulation of self-test prices is already practiced in Portugal and France
Several European countries have advanced faster than Spain in regulating the prices of self-tests, as was the case in Portugal, where the government limited the profit margin on the sale of medical devices and personal protective equipment to 15%, as well as in the commercialization of rapid tests for covid-19.
Another country that borders Spain, France has set the maximum price per unit at 6.01 euros, which is not far from the price currently practiced in Spain after the decrease in demand seen in recent days.
The Spanish Government argues that the measure was not taken earlier because it was necessary to “stabilize production”.
In Spain, self-tests will continue to be sold only in pharmacies, contrary to what happens in Portugal.
“The debate we had before or during Christmas was mainly about the supply of these tests; there was an exponential increase in demand, but not in supply. This issue has already been resolved; now we are going to come down to controlling the price of the antigen test”, he said. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez when he announced this measure earlier this week.
According to the consumer association Facua, the shortage in the Spanish market of self-diagnostic tests has led to the doubling of normal prices, with consumers having to pay from 4.95 to 10.00 euros.
The Minister of Economy and Digital Transformation, Nadia Calvino – one of the government officials who participated in the decision-making process – said on Wednesday that the intention was to lower the price “as much as possible, because it is a basic necessity”. although “the communities [autónomas] have different approaches”.
The largest Spanish opposition party, the Partido Popular (right), had asked for the price to be set at two euros and for these tests to be free for those who cannot afford them due to their income level, while Cidadãos (right- liberal) preferred the liberalization of sales in supermarkets, believing that prices could fall to between two and three euros.
The left-wing government, formed by the Socialist Party (PSOE) and Unidas Podemos (far-left), argued that the liberalization of sales was not on the table, mainly for security reasons.
For their part, large retail distribution chains have offered to sell the antigen tests to facilitate their distribution to the public and help fight the rise in infections caused by the new Ómicron variant.
The General Council of Pharmaceutical Associations welcomed the price ceiling because it will put an end to the “excessive” cost increases and market tensions of which these professionals were also “victims”.
Spain had the highest number of new infections in a single day on Wednesday, 179,125 infections, with the cumulative incidence rising to 3,127.9 per 100,000 inhabitants in the last 14 days, according to official figures.
The total number of cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic, almost two years ago, is now 7,771,367 and 90,508 people have died from the disease.