With generic terms like ‘testing’ and ‘vaccination’ being exclusively used to talk about Covid, non-Covid diagnostic tests have acquired an intuitive new name—‘Novid’. Novid refers to all other diseases including chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
Coined by Mumbai-based Thyrocare Technologies—the largest largest Edelweiss Indian diagnostic sector Read more diagnostic chain in terms of patients visited and sample collection centres across India—Novid tests seem to have an inversely proportional relationship with Covid tests. As Covid spikes, especially now with the second wave, Novid takes a backseat.
Thyrocare—which has 44,645 touchpoints touchpoints Thyrocare Annual Report 2019-20 Read more , with 4,410 partners across 796 cities—noted a 90% drop in Novid tests in April last year as compared to April 2019. While this improved to 50% in August and to pre-pandemic levels in September, Arokiaswamy Velumani, the Managing Director of Thyrocare, says these were merely people who couldn’t come earlier due to the all-India lockdown.
The lack of Novid diagnosis is an unforeseen Covid casualty. Without timely diagnosis, chronic conditions develop into acute diseases.
No one loves going to a doctor, Velumani accepts, but the reluctance was at its highest last year when a majority of Novid patients with minor symptoms chose to not see a doc. “Why would someone with little discomfort go to a doctor’s clinic and risk contracting Covid?” he asks.
In fact, fewer new patients were taking drugs for early-stage chronic conditions that can be controlled with medication, potentially due to late testing. According to market research firm AIOCD-AWACS, the growth in volume of sales of cardiology and diabetes drugs dropped to one-fifth of last year.
Besides, the problem doesn’t stop at late diagnosis.
The treatment of these chronic diseases also took a hit as all medical resources were diverted to controlling and treating Covid-19 last year. In fact, Indian hospitals are still not seeing as many new patients with early chronic conditions as they used to pre-pandemic.
In February 2020, about 700 kidney transplants—for patients with kidney failure, which is often a result of diabetes and hypertension—were carried out across India, says Vivekananda Jha, the president of International Society of Nephrology. This as opposed to February 2021, when only 300-400 transplants took place. Jha also consults as a doctor at the Fortis chain of hospitals in Delhi.
At Nephroplus, the largest dialysis chain with 245 centres in India, the number of deaths increased from about 15% patients every year to about a third of all patients in its network between April-December 2020.