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Gordon pushes cheaper saliva test for virus detection

Senator Richard J. Gordon
Senator Richard J. Gordon

SENATOR Richard J. Gordon, chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross, eyes reducing the cost of COVID-19 testing with an alternative system – the saliva test, which is faster and 99.9% reliable.

Gordon said they are hoping that the Health Technology Assessment Council would soon make a recommendation to the Department of Health in connection with the PRC’s application to be allowed to conduct saliva test for COVID-19.

“Health Technology Assessment Council ang nag-e-examine. It’s taking them a long time, October 17 pa sinubmit ‘yan at ginagamit na din ‘yan sa ibang bansa. Over one million COVID testing has been done using that, at 99.9% ang accuracy,” he said.

HTAC is an independent advisory body created with the overall role of providing guidance to the DOH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) on the coverage of health interventions and technologies to be funded by the government. It is mandated to undertake technology appraisals by determining their clinical and economic values in the Philippine healthcare system, with the aim of improving overall health outcomes and ensure fairness, equity, and sustainability of coverage for all Filipino citizens.

Gordon further explained that the same machines used for RT-PCR testing would be used without needing the nasal and pharyngeal swab that uses test kits.

“Mas madali ito dahil hindi na kailangan ng swab sa ilong at lalamunan. Kailangan lang dumura sa test tube. Mas mabilis din mapa-process at mailalabas ang results. Walang machines na bibilhin at matatanggal din ang test kits kaya mababawasan din ang presyo ng testing. Hindi mabigat para sa ating mga kababayan na gustong magbayad dahil mas mura. Ganun din ang PhilHealth, bababa ang kanilang gastusin na babayaran sa testing,” he said.

The University of Illinois launched a Manhattan Project–style effort to create a cheaper, faster COVID test. After running a successful pilot of the saliva test during the early part of summer, the university conducted more than 1 million COVID tests during the recently-completed fall semester. The alternative delivers a result within hours rather than days at a total cost of $20 per test and is 99.9% accurate on specificity.