Do a self-test or eat?

by Lorraine Williamson

MADRID – Prices for self-tests in Spain can vary considerably by region or even by pharmacy. According to the Spanish consumer organisation Facua, price differences amount to 102%. 

“Either you buy a self-test or you opt for food. With an income of €50 to €600, doing both is impossible”. So says Carlos Susías, president of the European Network for the Fight against Poverty and Social Exclusion in the Spanish State (EAPN-ES). The price differences create a ‘clearly unfair’ situation for vulnerable families in Spain with the lowest incomes. 

From €4.95 to €10 per test 

According to a survey by Facua among 150 pharmacies, prices at various branches throughout the country show a variation of 102%. “At the moment tests are sold for prices ranging between €4.95 and €10.” 

A pharmacy in La Estación in Valladolid has raised the price to €7.50 euros. “We used to sell them for €3.50, but they are now offered to us by the distributors for €4.50. It is very difficult to buy self-tests for less than €5 each”. 

Go to family without being tested or stay home 

People with a high income can cope with this price increase, in contrast to the most vulnerable. Susías tells RTVE that a single-parent family with an income of €600 per month cannot afford to take an antigen test to safely go to a family gathering. In that case, there are two options: either they take the risk of infection by going without a test or they stay at home. 

Test for €120 during holidays 

It can cost a family of four people up to €40 each to check whether they can go somewhere without risk of contamination. For the lowest incomes, that is a lot during the holidays when several family gatherings follow each other. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and Epiphany are also moments in Spain when people visit each other. With so many test moments, the costs for a family of four easily rise to €120 euros. Facua, therefore, denounces the price speculation by distributors and pharmacies in recent weeks. 

Cogesa Expats

Severe poverty for 4.5 million Spaniards 

According to the EAPN-ES poverty map, 9.5% of the population in Spain (4.5 million people) lives in a situation of severe poverty. The limit to be designated as such is an annual income of €6,417. Of this, all fixed costs such as rent, gas, and electricity, food, education, health care, clothing, etc. must be paid. Then there is little left to purchase expensive self-tests. 

As a result, people in those situations isolate themselves and choose not to leave or choose to take the risk. This creates either great social inequality or great social risk. 

Pharmacists point to producers 

Pharmacists indicate that they have often been called ‘impostors or thieves’ in recent weeks. “We are not to blame for this situation, but consumers only see us when they buy a test,” a pharmacist from Madrid told RTVE. “The self-test producers and the government are the real culprits for this situation,” he concludes. 

Other pharmacists have complained to Facua about the distributors of tests. These piggyback on the greatly increased demand for self-tests and raise prices. Previously they bought tests for €3.55 each, while they now have to pay €6.50 in Seville, €8.00 in Madrid, and €7.10 euros in Valencia. 

Facua advocates maximum price 

Facua criticises the Ministry of Health and the regional health ministries that have not set maximum prices for home tests, as they have done for face masks. In this way, the consumer is not protected against speculation. 

Outright Abuse 

Yet there are plenty of pharmacists who minimise their own profit margin as a service to their customers. For example, a pharmacist in Saavedra (Pontevedra) says “it is outright abuse to sell tests so expensive”. 


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