By Brianna Abbott
Covid-19 tests for people to use to get quick results at home
are finally becoming available to buy at pharmacies and retailers.
Yet an obstacle might stand in the way of regular use: cost.
Many health authorities have been looking forward to the
introduction of the fast-acting tests, which people could take at
home to see if they are infected. The paper-strip tests also could
help curb the spread of the coronavirus, supporters say, if people
used them a few times a week.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently cleared
over-the-counter sales of two of these rapid at-home screening
tests, one from Abbott Laboratories and another from Quidel
Yet it appears the tests will cost consumers at least $20 for a
pack of two, which health experts say is probably too pricey for
Major pharmacies recently said they plan to sell a two-pack of
Abbott's test for nearly $24, while Walmart says it will charge
just under $20. The price for Quidel's test hasn't been released,
though Quidel has indicated it will be less than $30 for a
"Twenty-five dollars for a Covid test, I think most people would
pay that once. But would they pay it every week or every two
weeks?" says Zoe McLaren, a health economist and an associate
professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of
Maryland, Baltimore County. "It's not designed to be a one-time
Dr. McLaren and medical-testing experts expressed hope that
prices would drop if more companies get clearance to sell
The rapid, at-home Covid-19 tests take about 15 minutes.
Consumers swab their nose and then dip the swab into a chemical
solution. Next, they add the solution to a paper strip. One or two
lines develop on the paper strip depending on whether it detects
The tests look for pieces of the virus, known as antigens. Given
the technology used, the tests are less precise than more
sophisticated analyses done by laboratories. Yet the tests can flag
cases among people who are most contagious, and frequent testing
and fast results can make up for lower precision, supporters
After the pandemic hit, many health authorities called for such
inexpensive and rapid at-home tests, saying they could serve as
important tools for catching cases among people without symptoms to
enable a safer return to schools, workplaces and social
Abbott says it has started shipping its tests, called BinaxNOW,
to retailers such as CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens and Walmart. Quidel
says it partnered with distribution company McKesson Corp. to sell
through local pharmacies and online channels such as Amazon. Quidel
calls its test the QuickVue At-Home OTC Covid-19 Test.
Public-health authorities say they are glad to see the tests in
stores, and the tests will be valuable tools for checking symptoms
or for specific occasions, such as traveling or visiting
A lower price of around a few dollars a test would be crucial,
however, if people were going to be willing to take one of the
tests regularly, according to health experts.
"I think broad, regular screening will require an additional
reduction in price," says Mara Aspinall, chief executive officer of
Health Catalysts Group and a principal investigator of the Covid-19
Diagnostics Commons at Arizona State University. "It certainly has
to be in the single digits, ideally under $5, so that people can
use it appropriately."
A survey by Harvard University and Hart Research Associates of
1,500 people in January found that 79% said they would test
themselves regularly if an at-home test cost $1, while only 33%
indicated they would frequently test if the price was $25.
Some other fast-acting, at-home tests also are starting to
appear on store shelves and online from companies including Ellume
USA LLC and Lucira Health Inc. Some of these tests use more
sophisticated technologies to detect cases and display results and
can cost as much as $55 each.
The more basic Abbott and Quidel paper-strip-like tests
previously were cleared by the FDA in December and March,
respectively, for use with a prescription. People have been able to
order the prescription version of the Abbott BinaxNOW online for
$25 a test or pick it up at some pharmacies under a partnership
with digital health company eMed.
Anthony D'Elia, store manager at pharmacy City Chemist in
Brooklyn, N.Y., says it sells BinaxNOW with an eMed consultation
for $40 a test and tells customers that they are best used as
symptom-checkers, especially during allergy season, or for after
"It's a good idea to keep one in the house. But if you test
everyday, that's expensive," he says.
The cost for the test includes a proctor to help walk the
patient through the test and a mobile app that can display the
outcome, an eMed spokesman says. Patients also can try to get the
cost reimbursed by their insurance provider, he says.
Several health insurers, including UnitedHealth Group Inc. and
Aetna Inc., a CVS Health Corp. unit, say they will cover the costs
of tests if they are deemed medically appropriate and ordered by a
Write to Brianna Abbott at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
April 28, 2021 05:44 ET (09:44 GMT)
Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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