COVID-19: Pharmacy's inflated price for box of rapid antigen tests shocks shopper

The shopper paid $62.99 for a box of five rapid antigen tests on Tuesday.
The shopper paid $62.99 for a box of five rapid antigen tests on Tuesday. Photo credit: Supplied/Getty Images.

A pharmacy's inflated price for a box of five rapid antigen tests has left one shopper in shock.

It comes as the number of positive COVID-19 cases reached 22,152 on Wednesday, of which more than 80 percent were detected by a rapid antigen test (RAT).

Wanting to avoid COVID-19 testing queues, Channa, who is based in Wellington, told Newshub he purchased five RATs from Unichem Upper Hutt on Tuesday for $62.99.

But he was "shocked" to find PAK'nSAVE supermarkets will sell a five-pack of rapid antigen tests for the cost price of $32.99.

Having paid almost double the price indicated by supermarkets, Channa now suspects the pharmacy is cashing in on current high demand.

"Keeping a reasonable margin is fine, but $63 looks outrageous," he told Newshub.

Newshub contacted the pharmacy owner for comment but did not receive a response.

A spokesperson for Green Cross Health, which owns Unichem, said pharmacies in the group had been reminded to observe "fair and reasonable pricing".

"Community pharmacies, throughout the pandemic response, have been incredibly busy ensuring our local communities are getting all the care and advice they need," the spokesperson said.

The box of five tests was purchased from a Unichem Pharmacy in Upper Hutt.
The box of five tests was purchased from a Unichem Pharmacy in Upper Hutt. Photo credit: Supplied.

In a statement, Consumer NZ said a price check of RATs found the prices varied greatly across retailers. The price per test could range from $6.50 to $19, it said.

People wanting to buy a few extra tests are reminded to check if the price is fair.

"We would expect RATs to range from $6.50 to $15, so if you do find extremely expensive tests for sale, you are entitled to ask a retailer why pricing is so high," Consumer NZ head of content Caitlin Cherry said.

Consumer NZ findings showed the lowest price for a five-pack of RATs was $31.99 ($6.40 per test), at Warehouse Stationary. The Chemist Warehouse website showed a five-pack of RATs for $44.99 ($8.99 per test).

Confirming the price of $32.99 for the Orient Gene Rapid COVID-19 Self-Test five-pack, Foodstuffs NZ corporate affairs manager Emma Wooster said in a statement tests would be sold at "cost price", available in PAK'nSAVE, New World and Four Square stores "as early as next week".

Countdown head pharmacist Jeremy Armes said Countdown stores would sell the five-pack of RATs for $32.99. There is currently limited supply at Countdown supermarkets, but stores would be selling more RATs as they're available.

The Ministry of Health confirms RATs are free for people with COVID-19 symptoms, or who are household contacts, as well as for border workers and COVID response workers. RATs are available through participating GPs, community testing centres and community collection stations.

More information about COVID-19 testing is available on the Ministry of Health website.