Covid or flu? Combo tests now available in Spain

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Spain has studies the price of antigen tests in neighbouring countries to determine its new fixed price. Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN / AFP

From Saturday January 15th, buying an antigen test from a chemist in Spain will be considerably cheaper, now that the national government has decided pharmacies must sell each of these rapid self-tests for €2.94 at most. 

The drastic rise in demand recently, coupled with some shortages in supply, has led the price of antigen tests to more than double in many pharmacies, from €4 to €8, or higher still. 

Sales shot up 67 percent in the week before Christmas, equalling seven million antigen tests sold, and ever-increasing Omicron cases are keeping demand up in January 2022. 

On Monday Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced his government would regulate the antigen test market to prevent this “bottleneck” from happening again, and three days later Spaniards have a start date and a confirmed price drop. 

“The main objective has been to set a price that’s as affordable as possible, always maintaining the necessary balance so that the product is available in pharmacies,” Health Minister Carolina Darias said at a press conference on Thursday.

To set the maximum price of €2.94, the cost of antigen test throughout the distribution process has been taken into account, as well as the price of these items “in neighbouring countries”, where in many cases self-tests have been considerably cheaper than in Spain. 

The announcement follows a unanimous decision by Spain’s Medicines and Health Products Price Commission,  the Ministries of Finance and Economic Affairs and the country’s regional governments.

Unfortunately, the legislation still does not include the possibility of antigen tests being sold in supermarkets as is the case in other European countries, with over-the-counter antigen tests still only available in pharmacies in Spain.  

“I’ve read criticism that antigen tests aren’t sold in supermarkets. Spain has opted for them to be sold in pharmacies firstly because of the guarantees they provide and secondly because it’s necessary to give the results of these tests to the regions’ public health officials,” Sánchez argued.

While the market was deregulated, pharmacy associations pacted they would keep the price of antigen tests between €6 and €10, but at times of peaks in demand this price bracket has often been surpassed.

“We accept the price fix due to the commitment and vocation to public health and service that’s guided us during these two years of pandemic,” the president of Spain College of Pharmacists Jesús Aguilar said in response to the news. 

“The fixed price will lead to the majority of pharmacies to sell tests below the price they paid for them, but as pharmacists we have always put the health of our patients first”.

For Spanish consumer watchdog Facua, pharmacies will continue making a handsome profit given the enormous demand for antigen tests during this sixth wave of the pandemic in Spain.