Life during the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on many challenges, one of the biggest of which is the ability to get tested regularly. Now, however, it looks like that may be as easy as placing an order on Amazon.
The test, produced by DxTerity Diagnostics, “is the first at-home saliva test to receive Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the FDA for symptomatic and asymptomatic testing,” according to a statement released by the online mega-retailer on January 5th.
The FDA originally approved the test on December 9th, becoming available for purchase through Amazon just last week. An individual test sells for $110 but is likely reimbursable through FSA, HSA, and insurance plans. Businesses or individuals can also purchase a 10-pack of tests for $1000. Either option offers free shipping to you, and prepaid express return shipping gets the sample to the lab at no additional cost.
“We have demonstrated the reliability and quality of our COVID-19 testing solution with big business, and now we want to expand access to customers at home and small businesses,” says Bob Terbrueggen, Ph.D., Founder and CEO of DxTerity. “Amazon is the perfect partner for expanding access to millions of U.S. customers.”
Terbrueggen is referring to DxTerity’s COVID-19 testing solutions that have already been provided to over 130 U.S. corporate partners, including numerous Fortune 500 companies, global pharmaceutical organizations, and entertainment groups.
Perhaps best of all, this test doesn’t include the dreaded nasal swab. Instead it relies on saliva. Only a small sample is needed, too, so collection involves nothing more than spitting into a tube. That tube is then sent to a lab in LA, where the diagnostics are run. To send it in, users must register and submit a physician’s authorization using an online portal, and then drop off the sample at a FedEx collection location on the same day the test is taken. Results typically come in 24 to 72 hours after the sample arrives at the lab.
This mail-order version can be used for both symptomatic and asymptomatic testing at home or in the office. It can be an especially useful tool in a work environment or in advance of a family gathering, since an estimated 40 percent or more of COVID-positive patients don’t exhibit any outward symptoms. It is unsupervised, of course, so it might not fulfill some travel requirements. The test also has other limitations in that it doesn’t confirm immunity or identify existing antibodies.
The FDA has approved other types of home tests, each with their own availability, procedure, and reliability. These include products from Ellume, Lucira Health, and Abbott Laboratories. Priced between $25 to $50, these tests are less expensive than the DxTerity Diagnostics variety, but they aren’t nearly as easy to obtain since they’re not yet available on Amazon. Another possible obstacle is the reliability of these tests. For example, the nasal swab offering from Ellume is 96-percent accurate for those having symptoms, and 91-percent effective for those without. There is no lab involved and results are available in 20 minutes. Unfortunately, rapid tests like this one result in a small number of false positives and negatives, so they still require follow-up in the form of confirmation by another test. Another option by Everlywell is ordered directly from the company, arriving in two to six days. You then self-administer a lower nasal swab sample collection and overnight ship it to the lab. Although the cost is $109 up front, customers can then submit the receipt for reimbursement through their insurance company.
Ultimately, the best testing option for you depends on the situation in your area, as it can often take several days to obtain a test in person. You should also consider the reason for your getting tested, and whether or not the results will be considered reliable for your needs. To avoid unexpected expenses, check with your insurance company regarding their policy on reimbursement before ordering any at-home COVID-19 test.