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No profiteering from COVID-19 test

Cepheid has set the price for each COVID-19 test at US$19.80 in 145 developing countries, including the world’s poorest countries where people live on less than two dollars per day. 

Nairobi, 30 July 2020 — Given the urgent global need for rapid, point-of-care diagnostic tests to deal with the continuous spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today called on US diagnostics corporation Cepheid to allocate its COVID-19 tests (Xpert Xpress SARS-COV2) equitably and affordably across all countries. MSF called on Cepheid to refrain from profiteering off the pandemic, by lowering the price of each test to US$5 from the nearly $20 it charges in the world’s poorest countries, in order to ensure much broader access to the test.

¨As MSF we are deeply concerned that people in many resource-limited countries will be deprived of this critical diagnostic test. This is not the time to set the price based on what the market can bear. It is indefensible for Cepheid to profit in this pandemic¨, said Kim West, Medical Advocacy Advisor, MSF Access Campaign.

Cepheid has set the price for each test at $19.80 in 145 developing countries including Kenya, the wider East African region and among the world’s poorest countries where people live on less than two dollars per day. Additionally, MSF and others’ analysis of the cost of manufacturing Cepheid’s tuberculosis (TB) test – which is similar to the COVID-19 cartridge – shows that the cost of goods, including materials, manufacturing, overhead, and other indirect expenses for each cartridge is as low as $3 at high volumes and with relevant royalties expired, and therefore each test could be sold at a profit for $5.

¨So many lives could be saved if corporations like Cepheid made their test available urgently and affordably in all countries. No one should be denied access based on where they come from or what they earn.¨ said Kim West, Medical Advocacy Advisor, MSF Access Campaign

The analysis also demonstrates that there was no significant difference between viral and bacterial cartridges that would justify substantial price variances across cartridges for different diseases. MSF called on Cepheid for a significant price reduction of their cartridges to no more than $5, including the COVID-19 test.

“This critical test must be made accessible to all people who urgently need it at $5 per test to tackle this global health emergency. As countries are struggling to deal with suspected COVID-19 cases, having an accurate rapid diagnostic test is essential for real-time management of people affected with the virus, in order to tackle this pandemic,” said Kim West.

MSF Access Campaign reaffirmed that in this raging pandemic, wealthier countries have a tremendous advantage over others in buying COVID-19 medical tools for their use first.

In March 2020, Cepheid received emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 test to detect coronavirus at the near point-of-care, delivering results in less than an hour. The test is designed for use on Cepheid’s GeneXpert testing platforms, which are already being used across the world, including Kenya, for diagnosis of TB and other infectious diseases. There are an estimated 11,000 GeneXpert instruments in low - and middle-income countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) along with several of its partners set up the ‘Diagnostics Consortium’ in March 2020 to support rapid and equitable access to COVID-19 health products and diagnostics for low- and middle-income countries. The consortium secured volume commitments from major diagnostic test manufacturers like Abbott, Cepheid, Roche, and Thermo Fisher for a period of four months. According to the consortium, the amounts committed from Cepheid represented only one-third of its COVID-19 cartridge manufacturing capacity. As a result, less than half of countries’ orders into the consortium have been fulfilled.

¨We need to see Cepheid take the right steps and guarantee a fair allocation and affordable supply of its COVID-19 test to the Diagnostic Consortium to help countries that would otherwise be left behind or left out of bilateral deals.¨ said Kim West.

The consortium and corporations, including Cepheid, are set to meet again to negotiate supply volumes and prices for the next four-month period between September to December 2020.  Cepheid developed the Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 cartridge with $3.7 million in public funding from the US government’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA).


About MSF

MSF teams are responding to COVID-19  in more than 70 countries globally, either by adapting existing activities to the COVID-19  pandemic or by opening new projects in countries as they become pandemic hotspots. MSF’sresponse focuses on three main priorities: supporting authorities to provide care for COVID-19 patients; protecting people who are vulnerable and at risk; and keeping essential medical services running.

The Access Campaign is part of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation.Our work is rooted in MSF’s medical operations and supports people in our projects and beyond. We bring down barriers that keep people from getting the treatment they need to stay alive and healthy. We advocate for effective drugs, tests and vaccines. MSF also has a regional office in Kenya, which supports our medical programmes in the country and those surrounding it.

COVID-19 Coronavirus

Most of the world's countries have reported cases of coronavirus disease COVID-19 and MSF teams in over 70 countries are now racing to respond to the pandemic.  

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