The Pharmaceutical Fund Supply Agency (PFSA), an entity mandated to procure pharmaceutical products and medical equipment, selects three companies to supply 33 million HIV test kits for the next three years with a total cost of around half a billion Birr.
Global Fund, which has disbursed over half a billion dollars in the past year, will cover the procurement cost.
The lion’s share of the kits, 31.5 million, went to Medica Pharma, a renowned supplier of medical equipment for over a decade in Ethiopia, just two weeks ago, whereas Abon Biopharma and Standard Diagnostics will share the rest.
Abon and Standard are subsidiaries of Alere, a multinational medical supplier in more than 35 countries, headquartered in China and Korea, respectively.
As a series of three tests must be performed to detect HIV in one’s blood based on an algorithm set by Ethiopian Public Health Institute. Medica will supply kits for screening- the first test- for 0.58 dollars a kit.
The cost is twice lower than Medica’s least offer in its previous bid for a similar tender, according to Dawit Gebregziabher, a major shareholder of the Company.
About 1.5 million packages, needed to confirm the results of the screener in two consecutive tests, will be supplied by Abon and Standard with a cost of 0.7 dollars and 0.9 dollars a unit, respectively.
The companies are expected to supply the kits on a yearly basis in a three-year framework agreement whereby they are required to deliver the products upon the Agency’s request, according to Seifu Isa, an acting director of Procurement Affairs at the Agency.
“First, they will supply the kits necessary to undertake tests for 12 months,” he said. “The rest will be supplied based on our demand on a yearly basis as it is a framework agreement.”
About 11 million people in the country are expected to be tested in the first year, whereas an equal number is planned to be tested in two consecutive years. HIV AIDS kills over 50 people daily in Ethiopia.
The three companies won the bid, which was opened almost a month and a half ago and attracted the attention of seven companies, after their products were deemed efficient in an algorithm test carried out by the EPHI in August 2017.
Medica’s product dubbed Stat Pack is a kit produced by Chembio Diagnostic System- a company that supplies HIV and syphilis kits in over 40 countries.
Stat pack, along with the Abon HIV and SD Biloline, Alere’s products, were found to be more than 99pc efficient, according to EPHI’s test.
Medica had been supplying kits for over ten years in Ethiopia until the Agency awarded the contract to Beijing Wantai and Premier Medica over the past three years.
Since then, it has been in dispute with the Ministry of Health (MoH) over the procedure it used while awarding the companies. It had even taken its case to the High Court demanding the suspension of the purchase and distribution of the kits. But, the High Court rejected its claim for lack of evidence.
Presently, Beijing Wantai is supplying around five million kits for 2.5 million dollars to be used for about four months, although its products were below the minimum acceptable criteria by EPHI’s test.
“Our track record shows that our products are technically efficient. Yet, it is not clear why we failed to pass such a test, while we were awarded to supply for about four months,” Getaneh Eniyew, technical manager of GEZ Chemicals & Pharmaceutical Plc, a local agent of Beijing Wantai, told Fortune a month and a half ago.
Minister of Health, Yifru Berhan (Prof), however, links their contract termination with the product’s specification, in a briefing to the press at about the same time.
“The exclusion doesn’t indicate their products are subpar,” he said. “As their specificity is less [94.3pc], we would be forced to undertake additional tests. Thus, this will make it costly.”
Established in 1991, Beijing Wantai’s kits are sold in the United States (US) and China. Currently, it is also supplying rapid test kits worth 1.3 million dollars to the Ethiopian Red Cross Society.