Philippine Medical Association now supports antibody rapid test kits
MANILA, Philippines – The head of the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) said he would now recommend the use of certain antibody rapid test kits to the group’s 84,500 member-physicians, a change of heart after previously flagging the kits for risking false results.
PMA President Dr. Jose Santiago, Jr. said this in an online press conference with Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, more than a week after the doctor penned an open letter calling out an insensitive comment made by the businessman.
“Antibody rapid testing kits per se [have their] usefulness. Of course, it should be done in a timely manner so you could really maximize the use of it and not waste the testing kits,” he said.
“And of course, I would like to say not all antibody test [kits] are created equal,” he said, noting that some brands are more reliable and accurate than others.
Concepcion said in a live online interview last month that doctors do nothing but complain, after medical groups, including PMA, flagged the use of rapid test kits for having the risk of giving false results and therefore a false sense of security for those who would test negative.
While meant as a complementary measure to the RT-PCR confirmatory tests, the quick kits are central to an initiative led by Concepcion called Project ARK (Antibody Rapid test Kits), named after the messianic ark in the Bible that saved animals from the great flood.
Through Project ARK, companies can volunteer to order antibody rapid test kits for their employees. More than a million have been ordered so far.
This, however, did not sit well with medical groups.
Santiago himself signed an open letter on May 21, saying Concepcion’s comment was “totally uncalled for and outrightly demeaning” to doctors. He even invited Concepcion to a guided tour in COVID-19 referral hospitals so he would see what doctors and frontliners really do. All that tension, however, was set aside during the joint press conference on Monday.
Moreover, when asked if he would now recommend the use of the kits to PMA member-doctors, Santiago said he would.
Santiago said he agreed to the comment given by pathologist Bu Castro, who was also part of the press conference. Castro said that “there could be low reliability, but not low enough to be rejected.”
“If you have a 60 percent efficacy [in a vaccine for example], and not 100 percent, would you still use it? For me, I will, because you can save 600,000 of the population for every 1 million,” Castro said.
“If there is a 50 percent reliability in the rapid testing kit, I would also use that. Why? I can prevent the 50 percent that it can detect [from infecting] other people,” Castro added.
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