Positive results of antigen tests taken at home may now be reported to pharmacies over the phone

The aim is to reduce the pressure on health centres of mild and asymptomatic cases

2 min
The Sílvia Fusté Pharmacy, in the Campo del Arpa neighbourhood

Santa Coloma de GramenetPeople with mild or no symptoms who received a positive result from an antigen test taken at home may notify their result to the approximately 1,300 pharmacies in Catalonia (40% of the total) which already carry out supervised rapid tests. Until now this information had to be reported to primary health centres and the 061 hotline, so that the result could be included in patients' medical history, close contacts informed and sick leave given. Now, however, if a person tests positive with an over-the-counter test they can call a pharmacy authorised by the Department of Health, which already have access to the medical records. Patients will need to identify themselves with their ID or health card number and indicate the brand of the test which was taken.

This is a collaboration between the Catalan Department of Health and the Catalan Council of Pharmacists' Associations to try to minimise the impact of the sixth wave, which already causes 128,000 weekly infections. "It is a new temporary channel that joins the existing ones and which can greatly facilitate the collection of positive results at a time of high incidence," the director of the Catalan Health Service (CatSalut), Gemma Craywinckel, summed up. The idea is that positive results with mild or no symptoms are notified to pharmacies in order to reduce the demand in primary care centres and minimise infected people's movements.

CAPs are saturated due to the explosion in infections as a result of the Omicron variant: they are currently making more than 297,000 weekly visits related to the virus. The Health Department has chosen to take advantage of the network established months ago for supervised self-diagnostic tests in pharmacies and extend it to self-sample tests that are done at home. However, no image of the positive test will be required to report the case, and patients' word will be taken. "It works on the basis of trust," said Craywinckel.

This measure, which is intended to reduce the pressure on health centres, is in addition to the one announced a week ago, whereby the Health Department accepted test results notified over the telephone or online without needing a second test at a health centre. In these cases, the Health Department asks the affected person to isolate at home and contact their health centre online at citasalut.gencat.cat to enter the information in their clinical record and report close contacts.

Prices triple

Coinciding with the Christmas holidays, the use of antigen tests has skyrocketed. In fact, the president of the Catalan Council of Pharmacists' Associations, Jordi Casas, calculates that its sale in pharmacies has multiplied by 30 in recent weeks, in most cases as an element of additional protection before family gatherings. "Above all they have been acquired and made to be able to discriminate and not so much because people had symptoms," the pharmacist explained.

Casas has indicated that antigen tests have become an essential tool today but supply is not guaranteed because most come from Southeast Asia. This has caused prices to "triple or quadruple" in recent weeks and has made them inaccessible to many people. "In addition to being in short supply, the price, which the Spanish Ministry of Health can regulate, is rising steadily. Now they are talking about regulating it, but it is complex because to set a price you have to have a guaranteed supply chain and this unfortunately is not always the case," he explained.