- The Department of Defense has ordered an additional 104 million over-the-counter COVID-19 tests from iHealth Lab to support President Joe Biden's push to make free kits available.
- The transaction brings the total number of kits the DoD has ordered from iHealth Lab at more than 350 million, putting the company at the heart of the government's effort to boost capacity. iHealth Lab sells its at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen tests directly to consumers for $8.99 each.
- The announcement of the expanded iHealth Lab deal comes after the DoD revealed an agreement to buy 50 million OTC COVID-19 tests from Siemens Healthineers, a company that mainly targeted the European market earlier in the pandemic.
iHealth Lab, part of China's Andon Health, has quickly emerged as a cornerstone of Biden's drive to make it easier for people in the U.S. to access at-home COVID-19 tests. The FDA granted iHealth Lab emergency use authorization in November. In January, Andon Health agreed to provide 250 million tests in a $1.3 billion deal with the DoD. The move followed state-level agreements worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The original agreement for 250 million kits made iHealth Lab the key player in a broader set of orders that the DoD struck to increase access to COVID-19 testing. The DoD disclosed the iHealth Lab agreement as part of a package of deals that positioned it to source 380 million tests from Abbott Laboratories, Roche and the Andon Health unit. The transactions occurred around he same time as the DoD struck a series of COVID-19 testing agreements with companies including Atlantic Trading, Goldbelt Security, Medea and Revival Health.
Tapping iHealth Lab for more tests brings the total tests covered by the existing deals to about the 500 million originally targeted by Biden. However, the administration has since moved the goalposts by disclosing plans to source and distribute another 500 million tests.
Biden's deal blitz is pressuring manufacturers and distributors to rapidly boost output. Abbott is aiming to increase U.S. output of its BinaxNow tests to 100 million a month by March, up from a targeted 70 million in January. iHealth Lab reportedly is producing around 200 million tests a month, a figure it aims to double in February.
The Biden administration is now taking online orders for the free tests. Still, the website, which went live one day ahead of schedule, suffered technical problems that prevented some people who live in apartment blocks from ordering tests and launched in three languages: English, Spanish and Chinese. The broader free-testing plan has also faced criticism for limiting access to testing for seniors.