Dutch hospitals expect rush on NIP-test; Belgians sue NL over "illegal" state aid for test

Belly of a woman in her 34th week of pregnancy
Belly of a woman in her 34th week of pregnancy. Photo: Inferis / Wikimedia Commons

The Dutch hospitals that can offer NIP tests to all pregnant women from April 1st are getting ready for a rush. They expect that half of the about 180 thousand pregnant women in the Netherlands per year will opt for the test, AD reports. Belgian company Gendia is suing the Dutch state for illegal state aid by subsidizing the test, which screens for serious disorders like Down's Syndrome. 

The 'Non-Invasive Prenatal Test' (NIPT) is a blood test that tests DNA. It has a 96 percent success rate in discovering Down's Syndrome in unborn children. It can also diagnose other disorders like Patau- and Edward's Syndrome. And while diagnosing these disorders is less accurate than for Down's Syndrome, it is still a lot better than the combination test, Robert-Jan Galjaard, clinical geneticist at Erasmus MC in Rotterdam, explained to AD.

Since 2014 hospitals were allowed to offer the NIPT to women with whom the result of the combination test - a nuchal translucency ultrasound measurement and a blood test - showed an increased chance for Down's syndrome. Because of the success rate of the NIPT, the Dutch academic hospitals may offer the test to all pregnant women as of April 1st. Women can have their blood drawn at more than 100 locations and the labs of the Maastricht UMC, Erasmus MC in Rotterdam and Amsterdam Vumc will perform the NIPT. 

The three hospitals expect that from Monday they will test 30 times more blood samples for disorders like Down's Syndrome, AD reports. They expect that pregnant women who now opt for the combination test in the first trimester, about a third of pregnant women, will massively switch to the NIPT. And a previous survey showed that women who currently won't consider a prenatal test, will have a NIPT done because of its accuracy. 

Minister Edith Schippers of Public Health gave 26 million euros in subsidy to a 'NIPT consortium' of university medical centers, the Volkskrant reports. Due to this subsidy, a NIPT will cost 175 euros in the Netherlands from Saturday. That is unfair competition, Patrick Willems of Gendia in Antwerp said to the newspaper. Over the past four years Gendia gave some 21 thousand Dutch women a NIPT at 590 euros a test.

Other providers of NIPT, like Gendia, are not included in the subsidy. Over the past weeks Gendia saw a sharp decline in its Dutch clientele because Dutch pregnant women are postponing their NIPT for April 1st. "Normally we have 100 to 120 clients per week at our 100 blood test sites in the Netherlands, last month there were only 45", Willems said to the newspaper. Gendia is therefore suing the Dutch government to stop the subsidy until the European Commission considered it. Gendia wants to be part of the subsidy arrangement, so that it can also give NIPT for cheaper. 

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