Roche pharmaceuticals: why large scale testing for coronavirus isn’t happening in the Netherlands

Roche pharmaceuticals is a large part of the reason there is not yet widespread testing for coronavirus. The company does not have enough test materials to supply Dutch laboratories, but they are also standing in the way of workaround solutions, de Telegraaf reports. 

Vendor lock-in is preventing the production of coronavirus tests

Roche is a market leader in the Netherlands, and has used this privilege to create what is called a vendor lock-in, according to research by Follow the Money. That means that laboratories which use Roche machinery to make medicines or do experiments also have to use Roche materials to do so. Because Roche is experiencing a shortage of the materials necessary for coronavirus tests, Dutch laboratories haven’t been able to allow for the widespread testing that was so effective in halting the spread of coronavirus in other countries like South Korea.

Roche could share the prescription with Dutch laboratories

You might feel some form of sympathy for Roche if they were just underprepared for the scale of coronavirus: almost everyone was. But the problem is that there is a solution to this shortage, but Roche is refusing to take it presently because of its impact on their profits. Roche could share the prescription for one of the elements of the testing materials, called a lysis buffer, with Dutch laboratories. It would be very easy for the laboratories to make this once they had the prescription, and that could in turn ease the shortage of tests.

So far, they are refusing to do so

Roche has been getting lots of media attention over the past couple of days. In an interview with de Volkskrant, Dutch microbiologist Dr Ann Vossen was hoping that Roche would share the prescription for the lysis buffer. When asked by Follow the Money whether they would provide this information in this time of crisis, Roche declined to respond. It seems like the shortage will continue for a while to come, even though there is no need for it, nor the suffering it will cause.

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Feature Image: DutchReview/Canva

Ailish Lalor
Ailish Lalor
Ailish was born in Sydney, Australia, but grew up by a forest in south-east Ireland, which she has attempted to replace with a living room filled with plants in The Hague. Besides catering to her army of pannenkoekenplantjes, Ailish spends her days convincing her friends that all food is better slightly burnt, plotting ways to hang out with dogs and cats, and of course, writing for DutchReview.

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