Simple test kit for HIV and other killers reaches Vietnam – can't be bought here yet

Across-the-counter availability for a simple, quick test for some of the most lethal diseases in the world. It’s a good idea. The story says Medical Services has started receiving orders and shipping VScan HIV test kits to Vietnam. “The VScan rapid test kit is a single use, easy to use, test for the screening of HIV1&2, Hepatitis B&C, Tuberculosis (TB), Dengue Fever, and West Nile.” The kits have demonstrated in two tests the ability to accurately detect the presence of a disease by 99.7% and 100%. Vietnam and Singapore recently started experiencing severe outbreaks of Dengue Fever so the test, which takes ony 15 minutes, comes at an important time for those countries and will allow physicians to immediately begin fluid replacement therapy that will help minimize the damage the disease does.

The kits have undergone testing in the US, and application for approval will be filed in the fall. But they can’t be sold in Canada. The Canadian process is so long and bureaucratic, according to Bill Whitehead, a Medical Services spokesperson, that the company (which is located in Canada) is not even thinking about trying to go through it at this time. “A market of 32 million people,” he says. “So what?” is the attitude of the government. Whitehead says the approval process in the US is simpler than for a drug but not in Canada.

The Canadian government even refused to accept a test as a gift for a soldier in Afghanistan who was eventually diagnosed with Dengue Fever. “Thank God he was alright,” Whitehead says, but the test could have detected the disease much earlier and the proper treament could have prevented the serious weight loss the soldier experienced.

What in the world would make a government so overly cautious in a case where a company can provide, with no demonstrated risk, early and possibly life-saving help to millions of people?

And we thought we had it tough…