Cepheid has set the price for a GeneXpert cartridge at $19.80 for low- and middle-income countries. The regular price in the US is $35. Médecins Sans Frontières and Cambridge Consultants have assessed that the subsidised price can come down another $5, and still generate profit for the company.
But even at the current rate of $19.80 (Rs2,500) per test, GeneXpert is still less than half the Rs5,500 that RT PCR tests cost at present in Nepal.
An even more important factor is that GeneXpert tests require minimum training as opposed to the traditional PCR tests which need well-trained technicians. And since GeneXpert cartridges are a self-contained system, often not requiring elaborate personal protection equipment, they are safer for disposal than traditional PCR plates.
The FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration) has approved this test, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended its use for the diagnosis of COVID-19 to the European Union.
The only challenge is to ensure an adequate supply of cartridges, and it is the Nepal government’s job to make a strong case to international donor agencies to help obtain them. Indonesia and Kenya have done so, and are using the cartridges. The GeneXpert COVID-19 test is not meant to be a replacement for the traditional RT PCR tests, but to top up existing testing.