Editor's note: Since the publication of this story, the FDA has issued an alert warning that it "has not authorized any test that is available to purchase for testing yourself at home for COVID-19." Nurx and others have halted their at-home testing COVID-19 services in response: read the updated story here.
The shortage of coronavirus testing kits in the United States has quickly come to the surface as the virus continues to spread. However, several industry players are racing to get tests out to the public. This week EverlyWell and Nurx have emerged as two of the leaders in the COVID-19 take-home testing space.
On Monday consumer healthcare business EverlyWell will be launching an at-home testing kit for COVID-19. This development is poised to give the United States an additional 30,000 tests.
The company is offering consumers the test at cost ($135), with no profit to the company. It noted that it will be covered by HSA and FSA providers.
Users will get the kit delivered to their homes, and will include sample-collection tools and shipping materials.
Users will get the test results digitally within a 48-hour window. If the results are positive, users can tap into a telemedicine consult with a board-certified doctor from PWN health. All positive results will be communicated to mandated federal and state reporting agencies.
The effort started when EverlyWell announced a $1 million development incentive for labs to prioritize the development of COVID-19 diagnostic tests.
This isn't the only at-home testing service we are seeing dive into the testing space. Nurx, which is best known for its at home STI-testing, is teaming up with Molecular Testing Labs and plan on launching a telehealth consultation and home-testing service "within the week."
Similar to EverlyWell, Nurx and Molecular plan on overnighting the test to patients, who can collect samples and send back their results in prepaid packaging. Nurx will then provide telehealth to patients about their next steps.
The company noted that the tests are limited, and therefore it will be concentrating its efforts on people who had direct exposure to the virus or who are experiencing symptoms.
WHY IT MATTERS
When it comes to testing for the coronavirus, the United States is lagging behind other nations. According to a report by Oxford University's Our World in Data, the per capita number of tests in the U.S. is 40 times lower than that in South Korea.
Pharma-giant Roche has also been working on providing tests for the virus. On Monday it announced that it began the first shipment of tests to a network of hospitals and reference labs across the US. The initial shipments included 400,000 test kits.
"As the COVID-19 public health emergency continues to worsen with community spread across the United States, there is an unmet medical need to broaden the access to testing for SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus in a responsible manner to complement and help alleviate the potential overload on healthcare systems and healthcare providers if testing was only available in the limited clinical setting," Dr. Frank Ong, chief medical and scientific officer of Everlywell, said in a statement.
THE LARGER TREND
To date there are 191,127 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the World Health Organization. Within the last few weeks the U.S. has seen an increase in cases, with 3,536 currently reported in the country.
Since January, we have seen efforts in testing innovation. For example, in late January Singapore-based Veredus Laboratories announced the development of the VereCoV detection kit, a portable Lab-on-Chip application capable of detecting the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and COVID-2019 in a single test.
Also in Singapore, researchers at the Institute for Health Innovation & Technology (iHealthtech) announced that they were working on the development of a rapid COVID-19 detection kit based on the enVision technology platform, which they invented in 2018.
ON THE RECORD
"The extreme shortage of tests for COVID-19 puts millions of Americans at risk," Julia Cheek, founder and CEO of Everlywell, said in a statement. "Everlywell is committed to helping stop the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. by making this test widely available. As the national leader in at-home lab testing, we want to use our resources and expertise to help as many people as we can. We are committed to this fight, and we're here to help."