Pharmacies lower self-test prices in response to competitive market

Pharmacies lower self-test prices in response to competitive market
People getting self-tests in a pharmacy. Credit: Belga

Many pharmacies have decided to lower the price of the coronavirus self-tests in response to supermarket competition.

Previously, tests cost around €8 in pharmacies whereas in supermarkets, they cost just €3 apiece. In some drugstore chains, a pack of around five tests can be bought for €15, which played a role in the decision. some pharmacists have called the price drop a "logical evolution adapted to reality" and many will now lower their prices.

"The prices have come down to an average of €5 to €6 for a test," Luc De Serrano, spokesperson for Belgium's Pharmaceutical Association (APB) told Het Nieuwsblad. Pharmacists can still charge €8 per test if they want because it is up to them individually to set the price, the APB stressed.

The wide range of products now on the market is the main factor driving down the price. The fact that tests can also be bought wholesale by pharmacists since last week has also allowed them to lower prices to a more "realistic rate."

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However, pharmacists still justify having higher prices than in supermarkets since they give more information to customers about the testing process.

"You might think: we know how to self-test by now. But a badly-taken test is worth nothing,"  Jeroen Van Dijck, president of the Limburg Pharmacists' Association (KLAV), said.

Encouragement to get tested

This news follows last week's political debate about self-tests and when Flemish socialist and green parties asked that families with schoolchildren receive tests free of charge. Federal Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke was not in favour of this measure, despite calling for weekly self-tests among pupils.

He stressed that the Federal Government already covers a large chunk of the cost for self-tests so that people with a lower income can buy them in pharmacies for €1. Vandenbroucke argued that it is up to communities to provide free tests.

Just 8% of Belgian parents with children in primary and secondary education plan to have them take a self-test every week. It is hoped that by lowering the cost of self-tests in pharmacies, more people will test more often.

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