720,000 rapid COVID-19 tests set to expire unused as newer technology makes them less desirable
Officials in Hawaii are struggling with how to handle a large number of rapid, point-of-care (POC) COVID-19 tests that are set to expire in March. About 720,000 BD Veritor rapid antigen tests are set to expire without being used.
Hawaii acquired the large number of the BD tests in the fall of 2020 to help meet COVID-19 testing needs and to provide POC testing in long-term care facilities. The BD Veritor tests quickly became outmoded with the availability of the Abbott BinaxNOW COVID-19 test.
The Abbott test offered many of the same advantages that the BD Veritor rapid antigen tests offered, but it did not require an analyzer to perform the test, reducing the complexity of testing. The Abbott test was also provided with federal funding, making it possible to supply long-term care facilities with this test at no additional cost.
With the Abbott POC COVID-19 test essentially replacing the BD Veritor test, the large stockpile of these tests is set to go unused. The 720,000 tests are worth just under $24 million, according to their currently advertised pricing. Having the BD tests go unused would represent the loss of a large financial investment by the state of Hawaii and could also result in the loss of many tests that could help offset testing needs.
Addressing Unused Stockpile of COVID-19 Tests Before They Expire
There are currently two approaches that state officials are taking to address the impending loss of these tests. “The goal is to use the tests before they expire,” Hawaii Department of Health Spokesperson Janice Okubo said. “If we determine appropriate uses for the tests, then we will use them before expiration. However, it seems likely that the State Laboratories Division will validate some of the tests to continue to use them beyond expiration, and they are preparing for this contingency.”
Current statistics show that the goal of using the tests before they expire is unlikely. According to Douglas Carroll, Spokesperson for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, the agency has dispersed under 50,000 rapid test kits in the past four weeks. If dispersing the tests continues at that rate, about 670,000 tests will remain unused by the expiration date.
May Be Able to Extend Product Expiration Date
The second contingency depends on extending the expiration date beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation. It remains unclear if the Hawaii State Laboratories Division will validate the BD POC tests for an extended length of time and if this will affect the tests’ viability.
The unique conundrum that Hawaii finds itself in highlights the fine line that government and clinical laboratories face in stockpiling laboratory tests in an environment where innovative advances in testing technology have been coming to market with astounding speed. As COVID-19 testing technology continues to advance, it is possible that the routine testing methods of today could be obsolete in months.
Clinical laboratory leaders should be aware of some of the implications that the rapid advances in testing technology could have on current testing methods, and consider the implications carefully when acquiring test kits or testing supplies. While the supply shortages that were prevalent in the early days of the pandemic incentivized stockpiling supplies that were available, the rapid advances in testing technology can make some of these stockpiles unnecessary and lead to potential waste.
—By Caleb Williams, Editor, COVID-19 STAT
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