On April 14, the Delhi government issued an order spelling out different reimbursement rates it would pay to private labs in the capital for testing samples sent by it for COVID infection. Unusually, the order puts a condition: the reimbursements will be paid only when the labs use kits sold by Pune-based biotech company Mylab Discovery Solutions.
As of March 24, the National Institute of Virology in Pune had cleared Mylab and German Altona Diagnostics to make test kits. As of April 14, the day the order was issued, 33 firms’ labs had been cleared by ICMR for supply and validation of testing kits.
The order issued by Nursing Home Cell of the Directorate General of Health Services of Delhi government said private labs shall be paid from the COVID funds released by government of India under National Health Mission at the following rates: if the sample is taken by the private lab and Mylab kit is provided by the private lab, the cost will be Rs 4,500; if the sample is taken by the government and Mylab kit is provided by private, the cost will be Rs 3,500; and if both sample and Mylab kit are provided by the government, the cost will be Rs 2,200. Asked why only one firm was named, R N Das, Medical Superintendent, Nursing Homes, Delhi government, who issued the order, said: “We had not heard about Mylab. Whatever people tell us we do.”
Asked if private labs will be reimbursed if they use kits other than from Mylab, Das said, “Why are we talking about x kit or y kit or z kit. Whatever kit we provide, the rate is Rs 2,200.” He did not answer the specific query on government reimbursing if labs use kits other than Mylab kits.
Mylab managing director Hasmukh Rawal said: “I don’t think that should be there (naming Mylab in the order). It might be the case the government is procuring Mylab kits and giving them free of cost… Instead of Mylab kit, the order should have stated COVID-19 kit. It can’t be Mylab. I am 100% percent sure. Because we don’t have any such order of a state for supply of any kit to anybody. We don’t have any agreement and no government can write a specific company name. There is no such thing of favouring the company. It should be a typo or mistake. It might have been that when they released the order, Mylab was the only company providing the kits. Definitely, the official who has passed the order has made a mistake.”
However, a private lab said it was now using only Mylab kits. “Our lab has been using other kits available in the market. These kits will continue to be used where samples are not being sent by the government. However, for samples being sent by Delhi government, now we are only using Mylab kits due to the order,” the owner of the private lab said.
On April 3, Mylab announced it had joined hands with Serum Institute of India and AP Globale (whose chairman Abhijit Pawar is cousin of Maharashtra Deputy CM Ajit Pawar) to increase production of kits used in COVID-19 diagnosis. Serum Institute’s Adar Poonawala and Pawar invested Rs 50 crore and Rs 1 crore respectively in Mylab through compulsory convertible debenture.
The order assumes significance given the expected ramping up of testing. By April 14, when the order was issued, Delhi had tested 16,282 samples — 17% of these were tested in private labs. By April 28, private labs had tested almost 16,000 of the total 47,225 samples.
Health Minister Satyendar Jain did not respond to calls seeking a comment.
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