Coronavirus | ICMR says no payment made for Chinese test kits supplies

Health workers using the antibody-based rapid test kits in Chennai. File   | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

India does not stand to lose a single rupee, said the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) on Monday in response to a clarification sought on the alleged profiteering by distributors, exposed through a legal dispute between an importer and a distributor, in the delivery COVID-19 rapid antibody testing kits to it.

According to details provided in the Delhi High Court, the kits procured from China, whose delivered cost was ₹245 a test, were sold to ICMR for ₹600 a test — a mark up of 145%.

Also read: Coronavirus | Rapid test kits were cleared by ICMR, say Chinese manufacturers

The matter came to light when Rare Metabolics Life Sciences Pvt Ltd and Aark Pharmaceuticals, distributors of Chinese Wondfo Biotech’s kits imported by Matrix Labs, approached the High Court recently to get delivery/payment disputes cleared.

The council, in a one-page clarification, noted that it had not made any payment whatsoever in respect of these supplies -- “because of the due process followed (not going in for procurement with 100% advance amount).”

Also read: Coronavirus | Confusion over mismatch in Health Ministry, ICMR figures

It should be remembered that this was the first-ever effort by any Indian agency to procure such kits and the rate quoted by the bidders was the only reference point, ICMR stated. “Testing is one of the most crucial weapons to fight COVID-19 and ICMR is doing everything it can to ramp up testing. This requires procurement of kits and supplying them to States. This procurement is being undertaken when globally there is a huge demand for these test kits and various countries are applying their full might, monetary and diplomatic to acquire them,’’ it said.


 It was also important to understand the background in which procurement decisions were made by ICMR and that the first attempt to procure these kits did not elicit any response from the suppliers. “Our second attempt got adequate responses. Of these responses, taking sensitivity and specificity in mind, kits of 2 companies [Biomedemics and Wondfo] were identified for procurement. Both had the requisite international certifications. For Wondfo, the evaluation committee got four bids and the corresponding quotes received were ₹ 1,204, ₹1,200, ₹844 and ₹600. Accordingly, the offer of Rs. 600 was considered. Meanwhile, ICMR also tried to procure kits directly from Wondfo,’’ ICMR said.

The quotation received from direct procurement had some issues, including — quotation was FOB (Free on Board) without any commitment on logistics issues. As it was on the basis of 100% direct advance without any guarantees, there was no commitment on timelines and the rates were communicated in US dollars without any clause for accounting for fluctuations in prices, it stated.

 Wondfo’s exclusive distributor for India for the kit was selected because they quoted an all inclusive price for FOB (logistics) without any clause for advance. “After receipt of some supplies, ICMR again conducted quality checks on these kits in field conditions. Based on a scientific assessment of their performance, the order in question [Wondfo] along with order in respect of another make found under-performing have been cancelled,’’ it said.

Advisory to States

ICMR noted that the States have been advised to stop using the kits procured from Wondfo and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics after it found wide variation in their sensitivity despite early promise of good performance for surveillance purpose.

“Several States have procured rapid antibody test kits and on their demand, ICMR has also provided these kits with clear instructions that they are to be used only for surveillance purpose. Later some States raised issues regarding their performance during the testing exercise that they have undertaken,’’ it observed.

ICMR, thereafter, evaluated the kits in field conditions and the results have shown wide variation in their sensitivity despite early promise of good performance for surveillance purposes. “States have now been told to not use these kits and return them to be sent back to the suppliers.’’ 

The RT-PCR throat/nasal swab test was the best use for diagnosis of COVID -19. It detected the virus early and was the best strategy to identify and isolate the individual, ICMR pointed out.

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Printable version | Aug 3, 2021 4:27:48 PM |

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