Use of saliva PCR tests for COVID-19 approved by DOH; costs to be covered by PhilHealth

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The Philippines is already allowing the use of saliva samples for Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) tests for COVID-19, announced the Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday.

The DOH said in a statement that it issued Department Memorandum (DM) No. 2021-0161 “in pursuit of expanding the country’s testing capacity and ensuring immediate and efficient implementation of PDITR (Prevent-Detect-Isolate-Treat-Reintegrate) strategies.”

According to the health agency, only licensed COVID-19 laboratories, certified by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), can conduct saliva-based PCR tests. 

“Furthermore, point-of-care clinics, specimen collecting facilities, and disease reporting units can perform saliva specimen collection, provided that the specimen collectors have undergone training from the referral licensed COVID-19 laboratory certified to perform saliva testing,” it added.

Only test kits validated by the RITM or those evaluated by RITM-recognized laboratories can be utilized for saliva tests. The kits should also have a special certification from the Food and Drug Administration.

The memorandum also instructs PhilHealth to “develop the appropriate payment and provider engagement mechanisms for saliva-based PCR testing,” with no additional payments beyond the PhilHealth coverage to be charged to the patients.

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