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A pharmacist shows an antigen test. EP
Test kit sales skyrocket amid Covid spike in Spain: 'Tenfold increase in one month'
Health

Test kit sales skyrocket amid Covid spike in Spain: 'Tenfold increase in one month'

Pharmaceutical distribution companies confirm that there are no supply problems: 'There is sufficient stock,' according to the Fedifar federation

José Antonio Guerrero

Madrid

Friday, 21 June 2024, 15:05

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A spike in Covid infections in Spain in the last month (cases have increased fourfold) has unleashed a demand for antigen tests in pharmacies as customers rush to check symptoms that resemble those of SARS-CoV-2.

"In the first half of May we sold 18 tests and in the first half of June 180, ten times more," says Silvano, a pharmacy located in a suburb of Madrid. It's a similar situation in many of the country's pharmacies. "We are selling more boxes," says Martín Valverde pharmacy in Granada. "We have noticed more demand, especially from people who want to take the test as a precaution, or who come with allergy symptoms, which resemble those of Covid and want to rule it out," Puente Colgante pharmacy in Valladolid explained.

Four years on from the start of the pandemic, pharmacies are still one of the first places where people with symptoms go for testing, which helps to avoid overloading health centres. "These are mild cases, nothing alarming, and people already know that if they test positive they should put on a mask, avoid crowds and wash their hands thoroughly," summarised those consulted.

The increase reported in these three pharmacies is corroborated by the specialised consultancy Iqvia with official sales data. Specifically, in the last week analysed (from 3 June to 9 June), 638,000 antigen tests were sold in Spain compared to 93,000 a month earlier - seven times more.

The number of tests sold has been climbing week by week since the beginning of May, when the first signs of the current upturn in cases began to appear. According to data provided by Iqvia, 132,000 tests were sold in the week beginning 13 May, 291,000 in the week of 20 May, 486,000 in the week of 27 May, and 638,000 in the last week. Focusing on the last week alone, there was an increase of 31%, a percentage that translates into an increase of 152,000 units.

Despite these sharp increases, pharmaceutical distributors have sufficient stock to meet demand, nothing like the situation that occurred around Christmas 2021 when sellers ran out of stock. "There are no supply problems," confirm sources at Fedifar, the federation of pharmaceutical distributors. The maximum retail price of the tests is 2.94 euros.

Taking precautions

According to the pharmacies consulted, the reasons for customers' demand is diverse. "There are customers who come with cough, mucus, sore throat, muscle aches or some fever, the classic symptoms of flu, and want to know if they have Covid because they live with elderly people, who are more vulnerable, or have relatives in residential homes, and want to take precautions."

At the same time, there has also been an increase in the sale of face masks, "although at a much lower percentage", according to the Silvano pharmacy.

According to the latest records of the acute respiratory infection surveillance system (Sivira), the incidence rate of SARS-CoV-2 in Spain has quadrupled in one month (from 26 cases per 100,000 inhabitants to 108 cases), increasing by 30% in the last week analysed. Most are mild cases caused by the latest dominant variant, christened Pirola, a sub-variant of Omicron.

Paediatricians have also detected an incidence of Covid among younger children, although they lack specific data. "We don't have data and we can't provide it, but it is true that we are seeing an increase in cases of Covid in children, and proportionally, hospital admissions are also increasing," said Dr Cristina Calvo, president of the Spanish society of paediatric infectious diseases.

Calvo says they are mostly treating "very young infants, under three months old, with fevers who are admitted to regular wards, not the ICU, because of their young age". Although respiratory symptoms are generally "mild", they are sometimes accompanied by diarrhoea. "We have to keep an eye on them," added the paediatrician.

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