World TB Day: Prices cut on diagnostic tests by coalition of private labs

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on March 23, 2014 Published on March 23, 2014

In the run-up to World TB day on Monday, a group of over 60 private labs have brought down the price on a key test for tuberculosis.

The MGIT Liquid Culture test will be available at a subsidised ceiling price of Rs 900 (the maximum price laboratories can charge patients) at select labs registered with Initiative for Promoting Affordable, Quality TB Tests (IPAQT).

Started about a year ago, IPAQT is a coalition of over 60 private labs in India making diagnostic tests, approved by the World Health Organisation, available at affordable prices to patients in the private sector.

The cost of these tests range between Rs 1100-Rs 2000 in other private labs, a communication on their behalf said. At present, WHO-endorsed tests are available at specially negotiated low prices only to the public sector.

Liquid culture is faster, more accurate and more comprehensive than conventional solid media or sputa smear approaches. It is important not just because it can detect drug resistant TB, but also in determining which drugs can be used to treat patients, the note explained.

About 73 private labs (including 15 IPAQT labs) and 50 government set-ups are offering the liquid culture test in the country. Labs in IPAQT, which operates on a high-volume, low-margin model, have access to lower, negotiated prices for the quality tests in exchange of their commitment to pass on the benefits to patients.

There are four tests approved by WHO: LED Microscope, Liquid Culture and two molecular tests - Gene Xpert and Line Probe Assay. Molecular-based tests provide rapid and accurate results and are preferred choice. However, molecular-based tests are expensive and costs around Rs 3,500 per person, the note said.

The IPAQT initiative started with the backing of 14 labs/hospitals and now has reached 61 labs (with over 3,000 collection centres) in Feb 2014. The members of IPAQT have tested 45000 TB suspects through one or more of the WHO approved TB tests as of March 2014. Patients can find the names of the labs located across several cities on IPAQTs website.

Significantly, the TB cases diagnosed at the coalition are notified to the Revised National TB Control Programme (RNTCP) for linkages to free TB drugs, where necessary, the note said.

India accounts for about 2 million of the over 8 million TB cases worldwide, in 2012.

Published on March 23, 2014
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