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Outrage over unreliable Aids test kits

It's not known how many blood samples were inaccurately tested swissinfo.ch

Patients’ organisations say they are outraged that unreliable HIV test kits have found their way into doctors’ surgeries in Switzerland.

This content was published on September 4, 2003 - 18:31

The Swiss health authorities warned this week that the tests might have given inaccurate results, with potentially serious consequences.

All medical services that used the kit have been informed and urged to re-examine the test samples.

“I am appalled that such tests could get onto the market without being checked first,” Margrit Kessler, president of the Swiss Patients’ Association, told swissinfo.

The test in question was manufactured by the French firm, Veda Lab, and was destined for research use in laboratories only. Yet, some kits were used by doctors testing patients for HIV.

The Federal Health Office admitted that the kit was not accurate and could produce a negative HIV result if tested on an infected person.

Watchdog

Swissmedic, the national medical watchdog, has admitted that it knew about use of the inaccurate kit as early as October 2002.

“There was information that they [the tests] might have been used to test normal patient samples [outside of the laboratory], and that is not the aim,” Swissmedic’s Rainer Voelksen told swissinfo.

Swissmedic said it had informed cantons and some medical laboratories about the problem last December, but some kits had been used subsequently.

The watchdog said the product had been correctly labelled and was totally legal.

Federal health system

The Swiss Patients’ Association says the structure of the health system is partly to blame for the mix-up.

“The Swiss health authorities are organised in a federal way which has some disadvantages. For example, not all cantons did their job and informed doctors,” said Kessler.

Kessler is calling for a shake-up in the way HIV tests are checked before being distributed to doctors and patients.

It is not known how many patients have been affected by the mix-up, or whether any misdiagnosed patients have passed on the HIV virus.

swissinfo, Samantha Tonkin and Isobel Johnson

In brief

The Federal Health Office has warned that certain HIV tests may give inaccurate results.

Some of the kits in question ended up in doctors’ surgeries despite being intended for laboratory use only.

The Swiss Patients’ Association says it is appalled that such a mix-up could occur.

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