Global drug manufacturer Abbott recently announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card rapid test for detection of COVID-19 infection. Abbott will sell this test for $5. It is highly portable (about the size of a credit card), affordable and provides results in 15 minutes. With no equipment required, the device will be an important tool to manage risk by quickly identifying infectious people so they don’t spread the disease to others. The idea is to bring rapid COVID testing to the masses.
The tests can be administered by doctors, nurses, pharmacists, workplace healthcare advisors and more. This also leaves the door open for specially trained employees at airlines, schools, companies and public spaces to potentially administer the tests.
“We intentionally designed the BinaxNOW test and NAVICA app so we could offer a comprehensive testing solution to help Americans feel more confident about their health and lives,” said Robert B. Ford, president and chief executive officer, Abbott. “BinaxNOW and the NAVICA app give us an affordable, easy-to-use, scalable test, and a complementary digital health tool to help us have a bit more normalcy in our daily lives.”
In data submitted to the FDA from a clinical study conducted by Abbott with several leading U.S. research universities, the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card demonstrated sensitivity of 97.1% (positive percent agreement) and specificity of 98.5% (negative percent agreement) in patients suspected of COVID-19 by their healthcare provider within the first seven days of symptom onset.
“The massive scale of this test and app will allow tens of millions of people to have access to rapid and reliable testing,” said Joseph Petrosino, Ph.D., professor and chairman, Molecular Virology and Microbiology, Baylor College of Medicine, whose labs have been leading efforts to provide COVID-19 testing for the college and Harris County. “With lab-based tests, you get excellent sensitivity but might have to wait days or longer to get the results. With a rapid antigen test, you get a result right away, getting infectious people off the streets and into quarantine so they don’t spread the virus.”
Under FDA EUA, the BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card is for use by healthcare professionals and can be used in point-of-care settings that are qualified to have the test performed and are operating under a CLIA (Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments) Certificate of Waiver, Certificate of Compliance, or Certificate of Accreditation. Within these settings, the test can be performed by doctors, nurses, school nurses, medical assistants and technicians, pharmacists, employer occupational health specialists, and more with minimal training and a patient prescription.
“Our nation’s frontline healthcare workers and clinical laboratory personnel have been under siege since the onset of this pandemic,” said Charles Chiu, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Laboratory Medicine at University of California, San Francisco. “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.”
Currently, AdvaMed (The Advanced Medical Technology Association) estimates that test manufacturers are shipping about 1 million tests per day. Abbott will ship tens of millions of tests in September, ramping to 50 million tests a month at the beginning of October. The company has invested hundreds of millions of dollars since April in two new U.S. facilities to manufacture BinaxNOW at massive scale.
“While BinaxNOW is the hardware that makes knowing your COVID-19 status possible, the NAVICA app is the digital network that allows people to share that information with those who need to know,” said Ford. “We’re taking our know-how from our digitally-connected medical devices and applying it to our diagnostics at a time when people expect their health information to be digital and readily accessible.”
If test results are negative, the app will display a digital health pass via a QR code, similar to an airline boarding pass. If test results are positive, people receive a message to quarantine and talk to their doctor. As they’re required to do for all COVID-19 tests, healthcare providers in all settings will be required to report positive results to the CDC and other public health authorities, regardless of whether they use the app. The digital health pass is stored in the app temporarily and expires after the time period specified by organizations that accept the app.
The app’s user interface is supported by a back-end digital infrastructure that is cloud-based, scalable and secure. It’s been designed to support a very large number of users and enable access from anywhere. The app is not for contact tracing and only collects a person’s first and last name, email address, phone number, zip code, date of birth and test results.
Abbott has provided more than 27 million COVID-19 tests in the U.S. to date, including 14 million detection tests and 13 million antibody tests. With this new system, the company believes they can bring rapid COVID testing to the masses.