Serological tests, how much the costs vary: from 20 to 100 euros in the private sector


Altroconsumo conducted an investigation to clarify serological tests, a topic at the center of the debate also during this second phase of the Coronavirus emergency.

A research that photographed a real test run in early May, despite the result – the association remembers – does not give the “immunity license” or indicate the presence of disease (detectable only with the swab), but only , and with “big limits, if you came into contact with the virus”, explains Altroconsumo, thus asking for more clarity and homogeneous rules also on the path to follow in case of a positive test result.

As for i costs, according to the results of the survey conducted in 97 laboratories in 5 regions (Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, Emilia Romagna and Lazio) the prices of tests performed in private laboratories are “highly variable“: Ranging from 20 euros to almost 100, depending on the center that runs them.

Serological tests, the Altroconsumo survey

To verify the situation, the type of tests offered and their price, Altroconsumo contacted 173 private healthcare facilities (the public service – explains the association – is generally absent, except in the case of being contacted for epidemiological studies) in the five selected regions and only 97 proposed the test. The offer, as often happens in healthcare, was not homogeneous in the area and the staff who provided the information over the phone were not always clear on the type of test that was carried out, which is also important for checking the adequacy of the cost and possibly make a comparison with other similar proposals.
Some laboratories carry out rapid tests (the so-called lancing), but most perform a real quantitative test with blood sampling, using the authorized methods Elisa and Clia.
And again: there are those who only check the presence of IgG immunoglobulins (the antibodies that develop in a late stage of the disease), and those who also search for the presence of IgM immunoglobulins (which are the first antibodies that the body produces in response to the virus). Finally, some I propose both the rapid test and the one with venous sampling, with important price differences.

Serological tests, what is the right price

On average do a serological test it costs 48 euros, in all the Regions considered, with a slightly less expensive offer in Emilia Romagna. But a big difference emerges between minimum and maximum prices: in the Lazio some labs do this test a 20 euro, in Veneto they ask up to 97 euros, for the same type of test (price which also includes a mandatory medical examination).
Altroconsumo, to check if it is an acceptable price, took as a reference the cost proposed by Emilia Romagna, which identifies a suitable reference price of 25 euros for each analysis. Considering an acceptable cost of 60 euros for a serological that quantifies both antibodies, 20% of the laboratories offer these tests at a higher cost and only 17% of the centers have a rate aligned with what is indicated by Emilia Romagna.
The lancing device rapid test is also too expensive: out of 15 centers that offered us a rapid test, prices vary from 25 euros to almost 100, with an average of 40 euros, far from the reference rate. Excluding the extreme case, therefore, almost one rapid test out of two stands at 30 euros, less than the test with venous sampling.

Serological tests, each Region does it by itself

Finally, each Region does it by itself, adopting different rules for these tests and the path to take in the event that the citizen is positive for these antibodies.
In Emilia Romagna and Lazio, for example, to get them you need to present the doctor’s prescription and the Regions also indicate a list of authorized centers, giving some reference prices.
Piedmont has accredited some structures and establishes a link between the private laboratory and the National Health Service in the event of a positive test through a digital reporting platform. Lombardy and Veneto do not give precise indications.

Free tests, that’s when

In addition to the possibility of performing these tests by paying them out of their own pockets, the association reminds that a match has just startedEpidemiological investigation out of a sample of 150 thousand people distributed in two thousand Italian municipalities. The goal is to understand how many people in Italy have developed coronavirus antibodies, even in the absence of symptoms, to estimate the size and extent of the infection in the population and to describe its frequency in relation to certain factors such as gender, age, region of origin, activity economic. If you are contacted you can freely decide whether to participate in the study or not. In this case, the tests are free.

Serological tests, the results do not attribute the immunity license

Altroconsumo reminds, finally, that the results of the serological tests, although they can be indicative for making a general assessment on the population, do not provide a reliable individual indication. “Almost all tests boast very high sensitivity values ​​(the ability to check for antibodies) and specificity (the ability to find people without antibodies instead), but the point is that these values ​​must be taken with pliers and read with caution“.
Altroconsumo lists the different limits (false positives, time elapsed since contact with the virus, sensitivity of the test).
“As the Ministry of Health also reiterates, the only exam that has a diagnostic value is the swab. It is not the case, therefore, to rush to do the serological test – Altroconsumo recommends – if there are no specific needs reported by the attending physician (not by chance in some Regions, in order to do so, you need the recipe). Also because currently the situation is still confused, especially as regards the consequences of a possible positivity (what should the citizen do? Pay the swab or wait for the call from the Health Service?) “.
“The serological test, although some regions have ventilated the possibility of making it mandatory for those who want to enter their territory soon, does not give individuals an immunity license. If the official way is to use them for epidemiological purposes, as is being done with the national study on 150 thousand citizens, it is necessary to put in order and give clear and homogeneous indications throughout the territory on the access criteria and the path to be taken in case of positive outcome ”, concludes Altroconsumo.

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