By Ellson Quismorio
Anakalusugan Party-list Rep. Mike Defensor wants the Department of Health (DOH) to make public the total number of COVID-19 tests that have been performed since March, together with the number of tests that had to be redone due to inaccurate or false-negative results.
Defensor said this as he pushed on Sunday (June 14) for a comprehensive review of the accuracy of all brands of COVID-19 tests being used by the DOH and all licensed laboratories across the country.
“We’ve gathered that there are some brands of COVID-19 tests that return up to 20 percent false-negative results, which is unacceptable,” said the House committee on public accounts chairperson.
“The DOH should discourage, if not stop altogether, the use of unreliable COVID-19 tests that produce high rates of false-negative results. We are investing P1.9 billion in COVID-19 screening, and the DOH should see to it that the money is spent only on the most dependable tests,” Defensor, also health committee vice chairperson, said.
Defensor said the Health department and local authorized laboratories could be wasting precious time and resources redoing thousands of COVID-19 tests due to the large volume of false-negative results obtained from defective tests.
The House leader was concerned that erroneous results from flawed tests may be falsely reassuring patients that they are not infected with the virus.
“Falsely reassured patients can contribute to the spread of the disease without them knowing it,” Defensor said.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has released P1.9 billion to the DOH to cover the funding requirements for the procurement of reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) detection kits.
Defensor said the allocation is enough for some 918,000 tests.
He also said that “in the spirit of transparency,” the U.S. Food Drug Administration recently cautioned the public about the reliability of a widely-used test for the new coronavirus.
“We are counting on the DOH to track closely the accuracy of all brands of COVID-19 tests, regardless of their country of origin, so that we may be properly guided as to which of them offer the best value for money for long-term use in the country,” Defensor said.
The DOH said in late April that it was carrying out an estimated 4,500 swab tests (RT-PCR) per day. In May, that number fluctuated greatly from a reported 32,000 daily tests last May 20 to just under 6,000 five days later.