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Gov’t Sets More Affordable Antigen Test Price, Price Cap for Self-Test Kits

Medically reviewed by Mae Charisse Antalan, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Apr 25

Gov’t Sets More Affordable Antigen Test Price, Price Cap for Self-Test Kits

On Tuesday, February 8, the Department of Health (DOH) announced the reduction in the prices of laboratory-based tests, and a cap to the self-administered antigen test price. The government will implement these new prices later this month. 

New Antigen Test Price Points

According to DOH Circular No. 2021-0323-B dated Jan. 28, the self-administered antigen test price is now at PHP350. The new price point is PHP150 less than its previous price cap of PHP500. The amount includes all materials and accessories needed for the procedure, such as the following:

  • Appropriate swab
  • Test kit cartridge
  • Dropper
  • Instruction leaflets

As of now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has certified only two brands of self-administered antigen test kits: 

  • Abbott Laboratories Philippines’ Panbio COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test
  • Labnovation Technologies Inc.’s SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test

Aside from self-administered antigen test kits, the DOH also changed the laboratory antigen test price, including the cost for the testing service. 

The price point for the antigen test administered by medical personnel has been reduced from PHP960 to PHP660. This new antigen test price is inclusive of the following:

  • Ceiling price for a test kit (PHP350)
  • Operational costs (PHP250)
  • Allowable mark-up (PHP60)

According to DOH’s circular, “Antigen rapid diagnostic test kits subsidized or donated by the DOH and other government agencies to DOH-licensed public and private health facilities and clinical laboratories shall be provided at zero cost to individuals. Only items directly procured by DOH-licensed health facilities and clinical laboratories and not provided by DOH can be charged.” 

The department further stated that the antigen test price may be less than the prescribed cap at licensed health facilities and clinical laboratories, as long as they can maintain the quality of their services. 

The updated price caps, according to the health department, shall take effect on February 20.

antigen test price

DOH Warns People About Dubious Test Kits

The DOH previously informed consumers not to use dubious kits that make false claims, mentioning products allegedly approved by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

According to Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, the RITM does not approve test kits. She also mentioned that only the FDA can approve such products.

She clarified that only the FDA accepts and reviews applications. Afterward, it is the RITM’s responsibility to verify the efficacy of medical devices like COVID-19 testing kits. 

A test kit should at least have a 97% rate of specificity and an 80% rating for sensitivity for identifying only the virus that causes COVID-19.

The verification process takes about four to five days before FDA can get a hold of it. Consequently, the overall process could take up to seven days. 

More About Antigen Tests

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antigen tests are frequently used in the identification of respiratory pathogens such as:

Rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 look for specific proteins in the virus. Some antigen tests can produce results for approximately 15 to 30 minutes. It uses a long nasal swab to collect a fluid sample. Others may require the user to bring the samples to a laboratory for testing.

These tests are relatively inexpensive and generally less sensitive than molecular tests like the real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and other nucleic acid amplification tests (NAATs). The difference between these tests is that they can detect and amplify the presence of viral nucleic acid.

Currently, antigen tests with approval include those of point-of-care, laboratory-based, and self-tests. Moreover, they are also appropriate for people of all ages. 

According to the DOH, self-test kits are only for those who have symptoms within seven days of their onset and cannot get an RT-PCR test. In addition to that, those who have had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 or those who have no symptoms should not use self-test kits.

The guidelines state that “a positive antigen test among symptomatic individuals and suspect or probable COVID-19 cases and their close contacts shall be interpreted and managed as a confirmed COVID-19 case.” Individuals who test positive should immediately isolate themselves and notify their close contacts.

How About RT-PCR Rates?

In public laboratories, the price range for RT-PCR tests remains at the following price points: 

  • PHP2,800 for plate-based GeneXpert
  • PHP2,450 for cartridge-based GeneXpert

Meanwhile, private laboratories offer the plate-based test at PHP 3,360 and the cartridge type at PHP2,940. There is also an additional PHP1,000 for plate-based and GeneXpert services conducted at home. 

The government is also working on reducing the cost of RT-PCR tests, to make the gold standard for SARS-CoV-2 detection accessible for everyone.

Learn more about Health News here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mae Charisse Antalan, MD

General Practitioner

Written by Fiel Tugade · Updated Apr 25

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