It’s been reported by news media for weeks that Abbott Labs’ point-of-care test to detect the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is providing false negatives. On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration issued an alert warning about the test’s inaccuracy.
The test, which provides results in about 15 minutes, is being used by the Arkansas Department of Health. Asked if he knew of the accuracy issues with the Abbott point-of-care test, Secretary of Health Dr. Nate Smith said yes. He wrote in an email: “We have been aware of issues with the Abbott ID Now platforms from published literature and have been selective in the settings in which we have chosen to use these. Some settings are more likely to result in false negatives, and we have tried to avoid those settings.”
Smith said the Abbott tests are testing “relatively low-risk individuals” at health care facilities. The department will provide a list of those facilities later. “The sensitivity and specificity are characteristics of the test, but what is most important in this context is the negative predictive value. For screening lower-risk populations, the negative predictive value of the Abbott ID Now test is still very high. We have also encouraged use of dry swabs rather than diluting in viral transport media because the sensitivity of the Abbott ID Now test is thought to be higher with point of care dry swabs.”
NPR reported in April that the test was producing false negatives at a rate of 14.8 percent.
Dr. Bruce Murphy, CEO of the Arkansas Heart Hospital, donated 500 of the Abbott Labs tests to the state to test health care workers in early April. Smith said the ID NOW machines used by the state were provided by the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
Is this the test used in inmates before parole? We’ve asked the Department of Health and the Corrections Department. UPDATE: No. Spokesman Soloman Graves said the prison is sending its samples to laboratories at the health department, the Veterans Administration hospitals and AEL in Memphis.