11 July 2024

Ostland Capital, the firm which won the bidding to supply the Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) with 8.5 million rapid antigen test kits (ATKs), worth almost 600 million baht, has asked Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to reconsider his instruction to the GPO that the ATKs must be approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The prime minister’s written instruction, which came shortly before the signing of the contract between the GPO and Ostland Capital, has been interpreted by critics of the ATKs, produced by Lepu Medical Technology of China, as an order to suspend the deal.

In its letter, addressed to the prime minister yesterday (Thursday), Ostland Capital said that the terms of reference for the bid do not specify that the ATKs have to be endorsed by the WHO, adding that the Lepu ATKs have been approved by the Thai Food and Drug Administration and have met the standards of several countries.

Meanwhile, Dr. Kriangsak Watcharanukulkiat, head of the price bargaining committee of the National Health Security Office (NHSO), which is funding the procurement of the ATKs, said that the GPO must scrap the bidding following the receipt of the instruction from the prime minister.

He stressed the need, however, for the rapid procurement of the ATKs, due to the continuing surge of COVID-19 infections, but noted that the kits must be highly accurate and approved by WHO.

He also said that the NHSO adheres to WHO standards for its procurement of medical supplies, not the “ordinary standard” set by the Thai Food and Drug Administration.

When asked by a reporter yesterday about the GPO’s ATK deal, the prime minister declined to respond.  Top public health officials were unable to clear the air about the deal either. When approached by the media they referred their questions to the GPO.