Scandal related RT-PCR COVID-19 testing machines brought to light

10:36 | 26/06/2020
Several people have been arrested for involvement in the recent scandal related to overpricing real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) machines for COVID-19 testing.
scandal related rt pcr covid 19 testing machines brought to light
Cobas x 480 RT-PCR

National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan made this statement when meeting with voters of Cai Rang district in the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho on June 23.

Ngan said that those involved made huge sums of money by rising the price of the machine from VND2 billion ($86,960) to VND6-7 billion ($260,870-$304,350).

Findings showed that several kinds of RT-PCR machines were included in this scandal, including cobas x 480 RT-PCR machines of F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. (Roche) – a Swiss multinational healthcare company.

Cobas x 480 RT-PCR machines were sold at different prices through different distributors, despite offering the same features and specifications under the same brand.

Specifically, the investigators found that Bac Ninh Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in October 2019 bought a cobas x 480 RT-PCR machine via a public auction at the price of VND5.98 billion ($260,000), sourced from the province’s 2019 state budget.

Meanwhile in March, Ninh Binh General Hospital also purchased such a machine at the price of VND7.89 billion ($343,050), and Thai Binh Department of Health in April bought one for VND6.4 billion ($278,260).

It remains unclear if it is the distributors themselves who are selling the machine at different prices due to market conditions or other reasons.

Up until now, the Ho Chi Minh City representative office of Roche has yet to issue a comment about the case, despite interview requests by VIR.

F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd. is named among the top 10 pharmaceutical companies by revenue and research and development investment in the world in 2019. Based on last year’s growth momentum, the company continued to reap fruitful results in the first quarter of 2020 despite the pandemic.

Roche’s first-quarter group sales increased 2 per cent in Swiss francs and 7 per cent at constant exchange rates, driven by new products. The firm’s pharmaceuticals division’s sales went up 7 per cent, led by products such as Tecentriq, Hemlibra, Ocrevus, and Perjeta. Meanwhile, its diagnostics division reported growth in sales of 5 per cent, with molecular testing as the main contributor.

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By Bich Thuy

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