The government on Monday said the order to procure rapid antibody test kits from two Chinese companies has been cancelled after quality issues and stressed that it had not made any payment for the supplies.
The cancellation of the order comes just a day after a controversy erupted over the price of the kits as a Delhi High Court order revealed that India was paying double the rates.
Test kits made by two Chinese companies – Guangzhou Wondfo Biotech and Zhuhai Livzon Diagnostics – have been found “under-performing” by the Indian Council of Medical Research, the government said.
“Because of the due process followed (not going for procurement with 100% advance amount), the government does not stand to lose a single rupee,” ICMR said in a statement.
The nodal medical agency has also directed all states to stop using the test kits because of the faulty results.
ICMR had planned to use the rapid antibody testing kits to supplement diagnostic RT-PCR testing, which is used to confirm cases of Covid-19. These are blood-based tests and identify if a person’s body has developed antibodies against a pathogen.
The government had on March 27 ordered five lakh rapid antibody test kits from Chinese firm Wondfo through the ICMR. The purchase order was signed between ICMR and Aark Pharmaceuticals. ICMR was also procuring the rapid kits on behalf of state governments.
The test kits were bought by the importer, Matrix, for Rs 245 apiece from China. Yet, the distributors, Real Metabolics and Aark Pharmaceuticals, had sold the same kits to the government for Rs 600 each, which means a 60 per cent mark-up.
The inflationary rate at which the kits were being bought was revealed after a legal dispute that landed in the high court, which ordered a price cap of Rs 400
for the kits henceforth.
The government, however, said the procurement is being undertaken when globally there is huge demand for these test kits and various countries are applying their full might, monetary and diplomatic, to acquire them.
The decision to procure the test kits through Wondfo’s exclusive distributor for India was made, the government said, as it quoted an all-inclusive price without any clause for advance, whereas direct procurement from China would have meant 100 per cent advance without quality guarantees, no commitment on timelines and payment in US dollars.
“It needs to be also 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,” the statement added.
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