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August 28, 2020

A 'game changer'? White House strikes $750M deal for 150M rapid coronavirus tests

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    HHS on Thursday announced that the Trump administration has reached a $750 million deal with Abbott Laboratories to acquire 150 million rapid-response coronavirus tests—a move applauded by experts as a potential "game changer" for America's coronavirus response.

    How Covid-19 is changing the future of the health care industry

    US new coronavirus cases near 5.9M, deaths top 180K

    U.S. officials as of Friday morning had reported a total of 5,883,700 cases of the novel coronavirus virus since the country's epidemic began—up from 5,837,800 cases reported as of Thursday morning.

    Data from the New York Times shows that Guam and 11 states—Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming—saw their average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases rise over the past 14 days.

    The Times' data also shows that the average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in the U.S. Virgin Islands and 20 states: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah, Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    In addition, the Times' data shows that Puerto Rico; Washington, D.C.; and 19 states saw their average daily numbers of newly confirmed coronavirus cases decrease over the past 14 days: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and West Virginia.

    U.S. officials as of Friday morning also had reported a total of 180,731 deaths linked to the coronavirus since the country's epidemic began—up from 179,604 deaths reported as of Thursday morning.

    According to the Times' data, 11 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported deaths linked to the coronavirus rise over the past 14 days: Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Virginia.

    HHS strikes $750M deal for 150M rapid coronavirus tests 

    As the new coronavirus continues to spread and spikes in new cases have strained America's testing capacity, FDA on Wednesday issued an emergency use authorization allowing providers to use Abbott's new, rapid coronavirus test at point-of-care settings—including physician's offices, EDs, and certain schools—on patients who have suspected cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, within seven days of the onset of Covid-19 symptoms.

    The antigen test, called the BinaxNOW, requires providers to use nasal swabs to collect specimens from a patient's nose by "rotating the swabs five times" and then insert the samples into a credit card-sized device with "six drops of extraction reagent." The test then can generate results in about 15 minutes—without requiring "special computer equipment" to get results, the Associated Press reports. According to the AP, "[T]he self-contained test is based on the same technology used to test for the flu, strep throat, and other infections."

    BinaxNOW is priced at $5, which is lower than the prices of other coronavirus tests currently available in the United States, the AP reports. BinaxNOW also comes with a no-cost companion mobile app, called NAVICA, that will be available for iPhone and Android devices and "allo[w] people to display their BinaxNOW test results when asked by organizations where people gather, such as workplaces and schools," Abbott said in a release.

    According to the Washington Post, antigen tests for the coronavirus, like BinaxNOW, are more likely to generate false-negative results—and therefore are less accurate—than polymerase chain reaction tests, which currently are the most widely used coronavirus tests in America. However, FDA said patients can undergo a second test to confirm any negative coronavirus test results they receive, if necessary.

    Abbott said its data has shown that BinaxNOW correctly detects about 97% of positive coronavirus cases.

    Abbott said it intends ship out tens of millions BinaxNOW tests in September and plans to ramp up production of the tests to 50 million per month by October.

    HHS on Thursday announced that the Trump administration has reached a $750 million deal to obtain 150 million of the tests. A senior administration official told Politico that the White House's coronavirus task force currently is discussing plans on how to distribute the tests, and they likely will go to long-term care facilities, schools, and vulnerable communities.

    Observers say deal could be a 'game changer,' bringing US closer to widespread testing

    Many observers and experts applauded the deal, saying they expect the move will bring the United States closer to achieving widespread coronavirus testing—which public health officials say is crucial to mitigating America's coronavirus epidemic.

    White House senior adviser Alyssa Farah said, "This is a major development that will help our country to remain open, get Americans back to work and kids back to school."

    Carl Bergstrom, a biologist at the University of Washington and an infectious-disease expert, said, "We want as much rapid testing as we can get. It's a step in the right direction."

    Charles Chiu, a professor of laboratory medicine at the University of California-San Francisco, said, "The availability of rapid testing for Covid-19 will help support overburdened laboratories, accelerate turnaround times, and greatly expand access to people who need it."

    Analysts at Bank of America global research in a report released Thursday wrote, "This approval could be a meaningful step forward for wide-scale testing in the [United States] and could help the [country] and later the world return to more normal daily life. This Abbott test does not require any instrument, which is probably its biggest point of differentiation versus other tests, but it also only costs $5 and it appears to be more accurate than other 15-minute turnaround antigen tests."

    Larry Biegelsen, a Wells Fargo analyst, and his colleagues in a report released Wednesday wrote, "We believe this (Abbott) test is a game changer because Abbott will sell the test for $5 … (when) competing tests cost about $20. (And) unlike other antigen tests, it does not require an instrument, therefore it can be administered anywhere" (Perrone, Associated Press, 8/27; Ballhaus, Wall Street Journal, 8/28; Bernstein/Min Kim, Washington Post, 8/27; Diamond/Lim, Politico, 8/28; FDA release, 8/26; FDA EUA letter, 8/26; Abbott release, 8/26; HHS release, 8/27; Madrigal, The Atlantic, 8/27; Japsen, Forbes, 8/27; New York Times, 8/28).

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