A little over a year after the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, France ordered nasal self-testing. A major advance in the massive screening operation wanted by the government. But are these as effective as other tests already on the market?
Launch of self-tests in pharmacies
One month after the green light from the Haute Autorité de Santé, nasal self-tests are now available in pharmacies. “From April 12, pharmacies will be able to sell self-tests to those who wish to buy them.”, Had indicated the Minister of Health Olivier Véran, in an interview with the media Brut. From now on, it is therefore possible to obtain Covid self-tests for an amount of 6 euros per item. Although they will not be reimbursed for the most part, home helpers and nursing assistants, in daily contact with the elderly, will be able to obtain them free of charge (within the limit of two self-tests per week).
In addition to the self-tests sold in pharmacies, the State has ordered an additional 5 million, which will be distributed by regional health agencies as well as communal social action centers. These tests are less invasive and can be performed directly by patients, without the intervention of a healthcare professional. However, to prove their reliability, they must be used properly.
The question of reliability
“We will have to train our patients in the right actions. You have to push the cotton swab 4 centimeters into your nose, that’s no small feat, and don’t forget to turn!”, Recalls Gilles Bonnefond, president of the pharmacists union USPO. The performance of these self-tests is not yet fully proven, although the first positive signals are reassuring about their use in the private sphere. The antigenic tests as well as the PCR tests remain privileged by the population because, in addition to their free (supported by health insurance), they are more reliable.
Especially since with the latter, if the patients present a positive result for the coronavirus, health professionals can take the time to explain the steps to be taken (isolation or other). Rather than “replacing” the test methods already in place for a few months, the self-tests will act as “useful additions”, In the words of Olivier Véran. The Haute Autorité de Santé also specified in a press release published on March 16 that “these so-called “rapid” tests are less invasive than nasopharyngeal swab tests and represent a complementary offer for specific needs”.
On Saturday April 10, the government worked with pharmacists and industry to agree on regulated prices. While the ceiling price has been set at 4.70 euros, the supplier AAZ has agreed to lower its initial price by 5.50 euros. Despite everything, with the arrival of Asian competition from May 15, French producers could well find it difficult to cope with competitiveness.
Thus, according to the decree published in the Official Journal of April 10, the selling prices of these self-tests may not exceed 6 euros and from May 16, the ceiling will be lowered to 4.20 euros.
Self-tests therefore represent a major advance in the fight against Covid-19, provided they are used properly.