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Superdrug launches £120 COVID-19 PCR saliva testing service

The test will be available from Superdrug stores and their website
The test will be available from Superdrug stores and their website

Superdrug has become the first high street pharmacy chain to offer a saliva-based polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for COVID-19, at the price of £120.

The saliva-based PCR test is designed to be less intrusive than the standard method of using a swab to retrieve a sample from the back of the patient's nose or throat.

It is available in all 200 Superdrug branches across the country and via the multiple’s website, it announced last week (February 19).

Instructions on the Superdrug website inform patients that the test can be repeated every three days and is suitable for all ages, although must be taken under the supervision of an adult.

On purchasing the kit, patients are instructed to register via the test manufacturer’s – Chronomics – website and then collect their sample by spitting into a tube provided. Patients then return the sample via a priority post box using the prepaid next-day postage service envelope also included in the kit and results typically arrive within 24-36 hours upon receipt at the lab. Patients will be notified via email when they are available online, Superdrug explained.

The multiple already sells at-home blood sampling COVID-19 test kits at the cost of £69. 

Michael Henry, Superdrug’s healthcare director, said: “Adding the PCR saliva test to our portfolio of COVID-19 testing services is another step forward in the global battle to fight the pandemic.”

PCR is one of two methods for identifying those infected with COVID-19; a lateral flow test  looks for antigen proteins produced by the virus that illicit an immune system response and gives “rapid results”, while PCR tests check for the virus’s genetic material in the sample and are sent off to labs for analysis.

PCR tests have been found to have a sensitivity and specificity of over 95%, with a false positive rate between 0.8% and 4%, according to a study published by the government last June.

Currently, Boots and Well Pharmacy charge £120 for a standard PCR test. Lloydspharmacy charges £110. A COVID-19 test is free on the NHS if you have symptoms.

Last week, the General Pharmaceutical Council changed its position on pharmacies selling rapid antibody tests, after initially telling contractors it was it was “not appropriate”.

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