MADRID – From Thursday, July 22, people in Spain will finally be able to go to pharmacies without a prescription to buy a self-test to find out if they are infected with the coronavirus. The government has approved the royal decree to this effect and published it in the BOE.
However, due to some bureaucratic confusion and the fact that virtually all pharmacies had a large stock of self-diagnostic tests, most started selling a few days earlier. “It can’t be that people need the tests and we can’t sell them,” says a pharmacist in Madrid. Therefore, as a result of the massive interest in self-tests and of course the increasing number of people infected, almost all pharmacies were immediately out of stock.
Sources at the General Council of Pharmaceutical Colleges confirm confusion surrounding commercialisation is due to exceptional nature of the pandemic. “We are in the fifth wave. There is a lot of concern and everyone understands the product could be sold once approved by the Council of Ministers [last Tuesday],” said a spokeswoman. She pointed out it makes sense that priority is given is given to common sense. And to the necessity of the tests over rules than whether it can be officially sold.
The success of these tests, according to Jesús Echarri, a pharmacist in Atocha quoted by El País, lies in the ease with which they are applied. “Everyone can do it at home and no longer have to go to a health centre. It’s a useful tool to get the pandemic under control,” he says.
Antigen tests available without prescription
Available in Spain are now antibody and antigen tests. Both are self-diagnostic tests, although their function is different. The first detects the antibodies of a person who has previously been in contact with the virus. And the second determines whether there is an active infection. The latter is sold over the counter and works with the now familiar cotton swab that must be inserted into the nostrils and then soaked in a solution and applied to a swab similar to a pregnancy test. Depending on how many lines appear, you may or may not be positive. The result is obtained in about 20 minutes. The antibody test (via a finger prick blood sample) has been available in pharmacies since December. However, it is only available on prescription.
Lack of guidelines
Despite the good news, the Ministry of Health has not specified how the population communicates a positive result. Therefore, the lack of guidelines on how test results will be checked for inclusion in the epidemiological surveillance network is the point of concern to pharmacists.
“It is a very useful tool, but it depends on the responsibility of the citizen. Moreover, we are concerned people may not report the results. And although we would like to play an active role in communicating the results, we are very limited,” says another pharmacist from Madrid.
Price of Covid self tests in Spain
The price at which self-tests are sold in pharmacies in Spain varies but can be found between €8-12. Likewise, in other countries the price also varies. For example, in Portugal tests can be between €7-10. While in France it is only €5.20. Belgium allows a price between €7-8 euros, while in Germany the costs of the tests are between €5-10.
The Spanish company Rypo, responsible for importing and distributing these types of tests to pharmacies, explains to Onda Cero that the final price of the tests will be set by each point of sale. This is as laid down in the Royal Decree. Furthermore, the tests are exempt from iva (VAT).