Abbott Laboratories hopes to begin rolling out its rapid diagnostic test for the Coronavirus strain COVID-19 to the general population beyond “frontline healthcare workers” in May and into June.
The effort to get the ID NOW COVID-19 test to healthcare workers on the frontlines of the battle against the deadly virus has been the first priority of Abbott amid the daunting 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.
“Our first phase was to roll this out to ensure that the frontline healthcare workers were tested and protected,” Abbott chief executive officer Robert Ford told analysts Thursday on a call to discuss the global medical product company’s first quarter earnings.
Abbott has been shipping out 50,000 ID NOW tests per day since April 1 and has been delivering on that commitment. “I get to see the manufacturing and the shipment output, and we haven’t fallen behind that,” Ford said. “In several days we’ve beaten that number and able to get more tests out.”
But as Abbott starts to ramp up manufacturing for ID NOW in May and into June, Ford said the company will “start to roll this out into a second phase where we’ll start to be able to test more of the general population.” Abbott will ramp up from production of 1.3 million ID NOW tests a month to 2 million in June.
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.
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 U.S. presence than the smaller firms.
To prepare for a broader use of ID NOW, Abbott has been piloting the tests outside of drugstores owned by CVS Health and Walgreens Boots Alliance in the U.S. as a precursor to a broader general population effort.
“We started to work on some pilots here with CVS and other retailers here to say, okay, how can we get this system out of the hospital into more decentralized testing, so we can test the general population whether it’s in urgent care clinics, nursing homes, retail settings, etc.,” Ford said. “That’s on target, on plan also.”
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