Patients with ailments other than COVID-19 have suffered a lot: Dr Arvind Lal, Lal PathLabs
Dr Arvind Lal, Executive Chairman, Dr Lal PathLabs, talks about the number of COVID-19 tests that are done, expansion plans, saliva-based test for COVID-19 and the volume of other tests that it conducts among others during an interview with Zee Business Executive Editor Swati Khandelwal
Dr Arvind Lal, Executive Chairman, Dr Lal PathLabs, talks about the number of COVID-19 tests that are done, expansion plans, saliva-based test for COVID-19 and the volume of other tests that it conducts among others during an interview with Swati Khandelwal, Zee Business. Edited Excerpts:
Q: Which region has more demand, urban or rural, and what is the difference between the two? Also, share the ratio of the home collections that is being done?
A: As we are more concentrated in urban areas and have hospitals in these areas only. Then it would be right to say that we get samples from certain centres as well as states, like Rajasthan, Arunachal, Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh. So, there is no hard and fast rule and that is point number one. The second point is that samples are being sent from hospitals to our labs at different places, so we will not be aware of the urban patients. So, it will be safe to assume that the centres I am talking about mainly have urban patients but it may have a minority share of the rural patients.
Q: In the first quarter we saw that you managed to open five new labs amid the lockdown. So, what are your expansion plans for the second quarter and the further quarters? Can you share a number with it?
A: As per my latest information, we have around 216 labs in India at present. We want to open more labs but COVID came in the middle due to which the activity was slowed down for a time being. But as per my knowledge, we will get back to the old activity in the next one-two months. However, I can’t provide the number of labs that will be opened and when it will be done as it is our ongoing process and if you have a look on our track record than we usually open 10-20 labs every year. We may slow down a bit this year due to COVID but ultimately it will be shorted out in a month or two from our side.
Q: There are talks related to Saliva-based COVID-19 test and it has been approved by USFDA and now even ICMR is considering the test and is recommending it for India. What is your thought about this particular test and will you initiate it at your labs?
A: One thing is very clear that ICMR’s recommendations will be brought into place at our place. And about RT-PCR, I again want to reemphasize that this is a gold standard. But the sample in this test can change if it is related to Saliva. At the same time, I would like to tell to your audiences that Sputum is also a good sample and it is approved in foreign countries like FDA among others. So, it is a question of time and both of these can be incorporated and as soon as ICMR permits us for the same we will be able to introduce these two samples also.
Q: I would like to talk from the overall business point of view and we know that you are busy with COVID but beyond that what is an update on other tests and how close are they to the pre-COVID-19 levels?
A: The main effect of COVID has not finished yet and I feel that we will be able to cover up things in the next one-two months. We also had other patients with different ailments, like dialysis, chronic kidney, heart disease and cancer among others, who have suffered a lot because of COVID—19. The second thing is that they have a comorbidity, they and have one more disease, but they were reluctant to come for getting usual tests done because no one wants to go out.
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And, we are doing home collections as much as we can. You also asked about the ratio between home collection and tests being conducted at labs then it stands around 50-50 level. So, the old patients with comorbidities like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac patients, cancer and renal and kidney disease have started coming to the labs once again.
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