In less than a month, Abbott Laboratories has shipped 566,000 of its highly touted “rapid” molecular tests for the Coronavirus strain COVID-19 to all 50 U.S. states.
The effort to get the ID NOW COVID-19 test to doctor’s offices, urgent care centers and temporary testing sites like drive-thru parking lot locations is a snapshot into the massive diagnostic effort under way in the U.S. Abbott’s ID NOW COVID-19 test can deliver “positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.”
The test, hailed by Donald Trump from the White House and praised by commercial companies like drugstore chains CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance, was granted the U.S Food and Drug Administration’s “emergency use authorization” less than three weeks ago amid a growing number of agency approvals for more rapid molecular “point-of-care” diagnostic tests that can be used in temporary screening locations, doctor’s office labs and nursing homes to detect the Coronavirus strain COVID-19 within a half hour.Today In: Healthcare
The FDA has escalated approvals of rapid “point-of-care” diagnostics made by other companies including Mesa Biotech and Cepheid which are also ramping up production to meet unprecedented demand. In Abbott’s case, however, the company has a much broader global presence than the smaller biotech firms.
“Through Saturday, April 11, we have shipped 566,000 of our rapid ID NOW tests to all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico and the Pacific Islands,” Abbott said in a statement. “The majority of these tests have been sent to outbreak hotspots and we’ve asked that customers prioritize front-line health care workers and first responders. We’re currently manufacturing 50,000 tests per day, plan to increase ID NOW manufacturing capacity to 2 million tests a month by June and are working to expand beyond that.”
And that kind of production will be welcome to U.S. healthcare providers on the frontlines as well as a Trump White House and federal health agencies dogged by criticism for the lack of testing for Coronavirus. The U.S. is considered well behind other countries when it comes to the availability of testing. As of Tuesday evening, the number of U.S. Coronavirus cases was set to eclipse 600,000 as the number of deaths hurtled past 25,000.
Abbott’s update comes ahead of the global medical product giant’s first quarter earnings report on Thursday. Abbott, which also makes an array of medical devices, diagnostics and hospital products, has until lately been better known to Wall Street for its sales of the continuous blood glucose monitoring system Freestyle Libre.
Though Abbott’s stock has gotten a bump since launching its ID NOW test, it’s unclear whether first quarter sales will benefit earnings given the company began shipping the product out in the last few days of the first quarter ended March 31.
Prior to FDA approval of the rapid tests, many of the Coronavirus tests recently approved are used in large hospitals and academic medical centers.
Abbott, which won an FDA emergency use authorization last month for its “m2000TM RealTime System” that is used by hospitals and academic medical centers to speed diagnostic capabilities, has an established history in the development of diagnostic tests, particularly for infectious diseases like the AIDS as the developer of the first HIV test.
“We have shipped more than 1 million tests to customers across the U.S.,” Abbott said of the m2000. “We’re also shipping these tests to customers throughout the world. There are approximately 200 m2000 instruments in hospital, academic center and reference labs throughout the U.S.”