- Americans are scrambling for unused Covid-19 tests at home as the US experiences a new spike in cases.
- Some expired COVID tests are still safe to use if the FDA says they have an extended expiration date.
- Otherwise, using expired tests without extensions may be unreliable.
In this illustration, Abbott’s COVID-19 rapid test kits are shown on display in Orlando.
Paul Hennessy | Light Rocket | Getty Images
As coronavirus cases rise again in the United States, Americans are searching for unused home tests, which they stashed away earlier during the pandemic.
Many of these tests may be past their expiration date, but don’t throw them away just yet.
The Food and Drug Administration has extended the expiration dates of many popular home testing products, which means some of your old kits may still be safe to use. You can check by visiting a page on the FDA website that lists expiration information for each brand of test.
“This is the first thing I would do before using or throwing away an expired test,” Andrew Picush, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNBC.
If the date has not changed, the FDA advises against using expired tests. Doing so increases the chance of an inaccurate test result, which could put your health or the health of someone else at risk.
A false finding carries more risks again as Covid gains a larger foothold nationwide, primarily driven by newer variants of the virus such as the now dominant EG.5 strain, or “iris”. Hospital admissions for the coronavirus jumped nearly 19% last week, the sixth consecutive week that admissions have increased, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Public health experts say testing remains a critical tool for protection as COVID measures rise. But polymerase chain reaction (PCR) lab tests – the traditional way to detect COVID – have become more expensive and less accessible to some Americans since the US government ended the public health emergency in May.
The end of this declaration also changed how public and private insurance companies are covered home tests, which may leave some people unable to get these tests for free through their plans. However, some local health clinics and community sites still offer home tests to the public at no cost.
Before buying new home tests, it wouldn’t hurt to check if any expired tests lying around in your medicine cabinet are still safe to use. Here are instructions on how to do this, and everything else you need to know about these tests.
The FDA website lists brands of COVID tests alphabetically in a table. Or you can use the search box to find the test directly.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicates if each brand has an extended expiration date. It usually provides a link to a PDF with new expiration times for a specific test suite.
Find your test lot number – which is usually printed next to the expiration date on the package – and review it with the information in the PDF.
For example, “BinaxNOW COVID-19 Ag Self Test” from lot number 181922 has a new expiration date of October 11. This is more than a year after the September 11, 2022 print date, which increases the total product shelf life to 22 months.
The FDA extends expiration dates when a manufacturer provides data showing that the shelf life of a test is longer than it was known when the agency first approved the product.
“The expiration dates that were initially set in these tests were sometimes very short because they were based on the data available at the time,” Pavitra Roychowdhary, a professor of laboratory medicine at the University of Washington School of Medicine, told CNBC. “But time has passed and more data has been collected, so we can now assess the stability and sensitivity of these tests over longer periods of time.”
The majority of home tests hit the market long before Iris and other new variants appeared in the United States, but the Food and Drug Administration and experts say current home tests detect Covid infections caused by those new strains, most of which are descendants of Omicron.
“With EG.5, it’s very clear that home tests as well as many other tests that are being done in medical institutions, hospitals and other places all recognize that and other variables that are currently prevalent,” said Bikosh of Johns Hopkins University. .
The FDA also said last week that “current tests used to detect COVID-19 and drugs used to treat it remain effective” with another Omicron sub-variant called BA.2.86, which has been detected in very small numbers across the United States.
The CDC is tracking this variant because it has a large number of mutations that set it apart from any other known strain of the virus. To date, there is no evidence that BA.2.86 causes more serious injuries than other variants.
But recent studies by researchers in China and Sweden suggest that BA.2.86 could be less infectious and less immune-evasive than feared.
“Overall, the situation does not appear to be as extreme as the original appearance of Omicron,” Benjamin Morel, principal investigator of the Sweden study, wrote in an article. posted on X.
(tags for translation)FDA