- The Defense Logistics Agency on Wednesday announced it has awarded Abbott Laboratories a $255 million contract to supply the Department of Health and Human Services with BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 antigen tests.
- Under the eight-month contract, funded by HHS, Abbott will initially provide 50 million of its point-of-care diagnostics for use in Florida and Maine for congregate care settings such as nursing homes. However, there could be subsequent orders for the tests as the contract has a $766.4 million ceiling, according to DLA.
- The $250 million award to Abbott is separate from the $10 billion in funding the Biden administration announced on Wednesday for school COVID-19 screenings to help them reopen. However, a recent pilot study at K-12 schools in six U.S. cities using 140,000 BinaxNOW tests reported both benefits and barriers.
Since the start of the pandemic, Abbott has seen strong buying from the federal government for its BinaxNOW rapid COVID-19 antigen tests, which deliver results in 15 minutes using nasal swabs and can be deployed by medical personnel or trained operators in certain non-clinical environments operating through a CLIA certificate.
HHS previously bought 150 million of Abbott's point-of-care antigen tests, which cost $5 each, under a $760 million contract awarded to the medtech giant in August, a day after it was granted an FDA emergency use authorization.
Following that initial order, the agency in December bought an additional 30 million Abbott BinaxNOW Ag Card rapid tests for nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other vulnerable groups. The dollar value for that deal was not disclosed.
Wednesday's DLA contract for 50 million Abbott tests designated for Florida and Maine, with HHS providing the funding, is part of the Biden administration's plan released last month to expand and improve COVID-19 testing nationwide.
In contrast, the Trump administration in November halted shipments of Abbott's BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Card tests to eight states. Senior officials said at the time that some states had not distributed the supplies they had already received.
The Biden administration on Wednesday said it will provide states with $10 billion for screening and other testing to enable schools to safely reopen in the remaining months of the academic year. Details about which companies might receive orders for tests were not provided. However, both PCR tests that deliver results within 24 hours and point-of-care antigen kits are considered suitable for school screening programs.
An FDA fact sheet released on Tuesday said schools, workplaces, and other organizations looking to establish testing programs to screen asymptomatic individuals should consider using a "highly sensitive authorized test, especially if rapid turnaround times are available." But if highly sensitive authorized tests are not feasible, or if turnaround times are prolonged, they should "consider using a less sensitive authorized point-of-care test, such as an antigen test," according to the agency.
Abbott's BinaxNOW and other antigen tests from BD and Quidel were designed, and received FDA emergency use authorizations, for use primarily in symptomatic patients. However, the agency on Tuesday released a template for developers to expedite EUAs for tests for use in COVID-19 screening programs of asymptomatic individuals.