The strategic reserve of Health falls short and does not alleviate the shortage of tests

  • Given the shortage of self-diagnostic tests for sale in pharmacies, the Government has announced that it will authorize the dispensing of tests for professional use in pharmacies, which are also beginning to be scarce.

  • The last distribution of the Ministry of antigen tests for professional use to the communities, five million units for mass screening, was last summer.

The shortage of self-diagnostic tests in Spanish pharmacies has caused the government has announced, as one of the measures to stop the rapid advance of the sixth wave, that it will authorize the sale of another type of antigen test in pharmacies, those for professional use (such as those sent to hospitals or used for mass screening) to make up for this lack of supply. Last summer, in the fifth wave of the coronavirus, the Ministry of Health distributed among the communities five million tests for mass screening that were part of the strategic reserve of medical supplies of the central government. It is the last distribution on record and, for now, that shipment has not served to stop the lack of stock which is already registered, also, in this type of professional tests carried out by healthcare personnel.

How many units of this type of diagnostic tests for professional use does Health have in its strategic reserve, which also includes other products such as gloves, masks …? EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA has referred this question to the department that directs Carolina Darias following the announcement made by the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, that tests for professional use will also be dispensed in pharmacies for sale to the public due to the lack of stock of self-diagnoses, undoubtedly the most sought-after product these days in pharmacies due to the explosion of cases of covid and in the middle of Christmas. Health has not answered the question.

Health is not aware that there is also a shortage of tests for professional use and ensures that they will arrive in a few days.

That measure announced by Sánchez could also be in the air, since at this time there are already lack of stock of these professional tests that are used in hospitals, health centers, mass screening or private laboratories. “Demand is higher than supply”, they assure from companies that sell, for example, to private hospitals or large companies. Thus, for these tests, as announced by the president, to reach Spanish pharmacies or autonomous communities in a few days, importers must return to look for them in the international market.

Because what the department directed by Carolina Darias has clarified is that those who will arrive at the pharmacies do not come from their strategic reserve, but are from “free market”; that is to say, those that are in the distribution channels. Thus, in a few days, if the importers and distributors of these tests do not find them either because there is a shortage at the international level, this would occur again. “bottleneck” that, with this measure, the Government intended to unblock.

From the Ministry of Health They point out that they are not aware that there is also a shortage of tests for professional use and that the information they handle is that there are units and these days will begin to arrive. These units, as has been said, do not come from its strategic reserve, which would already be insufficient to provide the population with tests. Sources close to the Madrid Health Council They claim, for example, that, at the time, they asked the Ministry for 500,000 units of these tests for professional use and that they have not received anything. They add that, just in case, they have their own pool of evidence.

Cast of five million in summer

In summer, after distributing five million antigen test units among the communities, the minister Carolina Darias it announced that it would submit a draft Royal Decree to the Council of Ministers. It was about Royal Decree 588/2021, of July 20, by which a previous one was modified -1662/2000, of September 29-, on medical devices for “in vitro” diagnosis, in order to regulate the sale to the public and advertising for over-the-counter coronavirus self-diagnostic products. The tests that, for months, pharmacists asked to be able to dispatch in their establishments and that today they are the most wanted treasure.

It should be noted that both lack of supply that Spain experiences in terms of antigen tests such as the difficulty of accessing them contrasts with the ease with which these medical devices are acquired in other neighboring countries. In the UK, for example, they are free. They can be requested on the website of the national health service and are received at home or the packs with several units are collected in pharmacies or health centers.

The first wave

The outbreak of the pandemic caused a crisis in the supply of very serious medical supplies in the first wave, which meant that professionals were not sufficiently protected without, for example, having access to personal protective equipment (PPE). Have a national strategic reserve of critical products -masks, protection equipment, medicines, vaccines … – to face the pandemic has been one of the priorities of the Ministry of Health since the outbreak of the crisis.

One of the conclusions of the Commission for the Reconstruction of the Congress was the supply the supply of sanitary material.

In July 2020, the Plenary of Congress approved the blocks of the opinion prepared by the Commission for Reconstruction Economic and Social Studies that contained the conclusions of the working groups of Health and Public Health. In the section on ‘Pharmaceutical policy, biosanitary industry and strategic reserve’, attention was drawn to the need to establish a “Strategic Reserve for Critical Health Products & rdquor; to guarantee the supply of sanitary material, protection, chemicals and basic substances, critical machinery or raw materials.

Sanidad announced that it was developing a national strategic reserve with personal protective equipment and medical devices such as masks, overalls or protective glasses. The purchase was centralized through the National Institute of Sanitary Management (Ingesa) which, in July 2020, published a framework agreement for the purchase of medical supplies. The commitment was to acquire, within a period of two years, 3.7 billion units of surgical gowns, nitrile gloves, safety glasses, type II and IIR surgical masks, FFP2 protection masks, FFP3 protection masks, tests and extraction kits. The total economic amount of the agreement reached 2,431,793,480 euros. Antigen tests were not mentioned in that section.

A new spending commitment

This material is managed by the General Directorate of Common Portfolio of Services of the National Health and Pharmacy System. In October of this same 2021, the Council of Ministers approved an agreement that authorized the acquisition of spending commitments charged to subsequent years in order to enable the department that directs Carolina Darias the advance processing of a logistics services contract for this strategic reserve of medical, protection and pharmaceutical material. Apart from the government provisioning, the communities themselves also collected medical supplies through their own reserves.

The Ministry has at its disposal the facilities of the Ministry of Defense for the storage of vaccines and health products.

To maintain such a reserve and have a product storage, the Government launched, initially processed through the emergency procedure, a logistics services contract that ended last 8 December of this same year. Its objective: the integral logistics service of the material reservation that includes all operational processes: from collection, reception, storage and Inventory management, up to distribution, transport and delivery, product monitoring and expiration control. The contract will have a duration of one year, extendable for another year. The amount to be processed for the year 2022 has an estimated cost of 6.235.993 euros.

Related news

Currently, the Ministry has at its disposal the facilities of the Ministry of Defense, which allow the deep-frozen storage of Pfizer vaccines. In this case in the Military Pharmacy Center from the Madrid town of Colmenar Viejo, where part of this sanitary material is also kept, such as masks or medicines. In other facilities, those that Defense has in its Military Pharmacy Center of Burgos, part of the stock of that booking.

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