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Price of Covid self-tests in pharmacies in France raises questions

Some supermarkets are selling them at a ‘cost price’ of as low as €1.24 a test whereas pharmacies are billing the state around €4.50 for each test, their fees included

 A close-up of a woman doing a self Covid test

Prices for Covid self-tests are still considerably higher in French pharmacies than in supermarkets Pic: Basilico Studio Stock / Shutterstock

The high price of Covid self-tests in some pharmacies in France compared to their cost in supermarkets is prompting debate.

Supermarkets have been permitted to continue selling the tests for one more week until February 15, by government decree (an extension on the previous deadline of January 31) due to the continued demand caused by the Omicron variant.

How much do tests cost at the supermarket?

Supermarkets have repeatedly said that they are selling the tests “at cost price”.

While the self-tests are sold for €4 to €5 each in pharmacies, Carrefour and Super U are offering a box of five tests for €9.75, or €1.95 each.

E.Leclerc also announced a price of €1.95 per unit "at cost price and therefore without margin".

But Intermarché did even better by offering a box of five tests for €6.20, or €1.24 per test. This then motivated E.Leclerc to follow suit and drop the price from €1.95 to €1.24 per unit, suggesting that its starting price was not truly at cost price and that there had indeed been a small margin.

What does ‘cost price’ mean?

There is no one definition of this but it suggests that supermarkets are selling the tests without any profit.

A spokesperson for Intermarché told consumer website 60 Millions de Consommateurs: “Cost price means no margin for all the chains of distribution, from our point of purchase to point of sale.”

How does this compare to costs at a pharmacy?

Supermarket prices compare to a regulated cost of €4 to €5 per test at some pharmacies (with a cap of €5.20 per test). 

Even “free” tests at the pharmacy cost l’Assurance maladie €3.50 each, plus €2 in dispensing fees for the pharmacist.

These fees apply to each individual test [sold], that includes the same person or family. Essentially, if you buy 10 self-tests at once from your pharmacy you will only get the advice (dispensing fees) once but the Assurance Maladie will be charged it 10 times.

How can I get a free test from a pharmacy?

You can receive two free self-tests if you are fully vaccinated in exchange for a “sworn statement” (déclaration sur l’honneur) declaring that you are a contact case, and that you have carried out an antigen or a PCR test on the day you were informed that you were a contact case (day zero or "D0"), and your result was negative.

These two self-tests should then be performed on D+2 and D+4. 

For school pupils under 12 years of age who are identified as close contacts, three free self-tests are provided for testing on D0, D+2 and D+4.

Those who work, for example, with elderly or disabled people can also access free tests on presentation of a note from their employer. 

You can find out more about taking a self-test in France on the Assurance maladie website.

How do pharmacies explain their high prices compared to supermarkets?

The considerable difference in prices between pharmacies and supermarkets still remains something of a mystery, as the tests are all likely to come from the same place (French manufacturers AAZ, under the brand Covid Viro, and Biosynex). 

The main explanation seems to be supermarkets’ willingness to sell them at zero profit [at cost price].

When contacted by 60 Millions de Consommateurs, president of the French pharmaceutical union la Fédération des syndicats pharmaceutiques de France, said that the Sécu and Assurance maladie had set the prices, and that pharmacies could not change them.

He said: "The prices were set by l’Assurance maladie…and we have never, since the beginning of the health crisis, 'negotiated' the tariffs. As far as I know, [the prices] were set after conducting a market study on the sales prices of French manufacturers to pharmacists.”

Thomas Fatôme, director of l’Assurance maladie, said that pharmacy rates are "consistent with our obligations".

There are, therefore, no plans to change the prices of tests in pharmacies, and l’Assurance maladie will continue to cover the costs of “free” tests for those who qualify for them. Currently, it is reimbursing at a rate of 300,000 to 400,000 tests per day.

Related articles

Home Covid tests to stay in French supermarkets until February 15 

Explained: How to use home Covid tests on sale in France 

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