No host has claimed this podcast yet, if you are the host you can verify ownership by claiming this podcast
Copyright © Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
Why At-Home Covid-19 Tests Are So Hard to Find
Yesterday I stopped by my local pharmacy in Brooklyn. I was looking for 10 most coveted items in America right now. At home covid test and at home covid, test has it been hard to get?
The woman at the counter, gave me the bad news. They didn't have any and her manager. Does that Joe? She explained it. It had been this way for weeks. How long have you been out? Almost? There was a Before. Christmas 24th and 24th. But with all the demand, the price is going up. What are you doing? Have wholesale is still in me. But the problem is that, the price would I use to sell that they're selling is much more higher than the price. I used to tell her that really, so we decided not to go with that. People going to think we are children. So I don't want to get involved in the customers. Come in asking for them and was very busy, you know, all the phone calls all of a sudden you were being hit by. Call me Quan and every third or fourth person, you know, probably at is positive so that kind of created panic.
It's not just in Brooklyn depending on where you are in the US, the supply of over-the-counter covid tests has been scared for weeks.
Our colleague, Brown Abbott says that you was recently in a Walgreens in New Hampshire. That was limiting customers have four boxes each and everybody in the checkout line had four boxes of people are really, just sort of snapping them up like when they happen to see them. And if you were standing in that line, looking at everybody with their rationale for boxes. Were you thinking to yourself? Like, it didn't have to be this way. I was thinking that it could have been a lot better than this. There were definitely choices that we could have made as a country. That would have taken us down a different path.
Welcome to the journal, our show about money business and power. I'm Ryan Knutson. It's Thursday, January 6th.
Coming up on the show. White at home, tests are so hard to buy.
Brianna Abbott's been reading about covid testing for almost 2 years. Now, Brianna Abbott, like of Abbott Labs, the company that makes the covid test quite a bed. She says that while at home tester and hide them in now that wasn't always the case. I don't test first became widely available in the spring of 2021. When they first got on shelves, people really weren't that interested.
Partly, it was just bad timing because that was also the time that the vaccines started to roll out and that was really the focus of people and public health. Experts last bring the big push was to get people vaccinated and as they did, in this case has started to drive there wasn't much demand for at home testing. I mention cost must have also played a factor in this because a box of two test is like 25 bucks, which is not cheap know. It's definitely not focus on making sure that PCR test in most situations were free so you could get your nose swab for PCR test. That was more accurate for free, or you can pay $25 for a box of Rapid test.
Another thing is slow jam and was that in the early days of the pandemic? Some Public Health experts are skeptical. That at home tests would even be useful. They had concerns about how accurate they were and they also worried about data collection, when you take an at-home test and don't report the results, Health officials can't track where the virus is spreading.
So these tests are finally available, but nobody wants to buy them. So how did manufacturers, doesn't make these tests? How did they respond to that lack of demand? Is once again no relation at the time was and still is sort of the largest testing manufacturer in the US, cut back on their production and they closed the factory and laid folks off because they were really just responding. So I have to the market demands at the time. So then we were sort of starting from behind. Those built has been covid cases, soaring last summer, more Public Health, experts started to emphasize the advantages of these kinds of tests because it turned out that the test actually were pretty accurate for people with lots of virus in our system and they were fast in 15 minutes instead of hours or even days. And you can do it from
We're like you can do it from home. You don't have to go to a testing site and wait in line. Like you can just have one ready to go and get a quick actionable results. More Public. Health officials were encouraging people to use them in a way that they weren't before. So, the Delta wave is really when you started to see the demand increase and is when you first started. So busy though. Shortages, last summer was Zachariah, reitano. Zachariah. You can call me Zac. Efron usually calls you because when I hear Zakaria, all I hear is my loving Jewish mother yelling at me from across the house. Zack is the co-founder and CEO of a company called r o formerly Roman. These days. It's an online pharmacy and tell a health provider, but it's best known for the business that started with selling meds for things like hair loss and erectile dysfunction.
That's why we built broken but during the pandemic is the Delta variant took off his ex's that Rose seeing demand for a very different kind of product. I don't covid tests. Were you actually hearing from your customers that they wanted to buy test from you before? You started selling them constantly emailing you like emailing us at him. But yet you mailing our care team asking our doctors and nurses. When they would communicate with them. We have a pharmacy that serves over 1,000, generic medications for about $5. They would ask pharmacist on the phone and via email and I'm getting my diabetes medication. Do you also have covid test? Cuz my Pharmacy is is out Rose. Customers were having trouble, finding tests and so, is Zach.
One reason for that, was it, there just weren't that many companies, making the test, and that's probably because of what the Food and Drug Administration decided early on about how it was going to authorize at home covid test. There's Brianna a authorization process for at home. Test in the US overseas in places like the European Union and the US manufacturers had to run cynical trials and show that the past would work with average folks, taking the samples, and selves, and process was a bit more intricate. And so as a result in places like the UK and Germany, you saw a lot of other different testing options on the market which sort of helped win Supply. And in cost yesterday about the weight approach to improving these. Adam desk job is to regulate the quality of the test and they don't want half of poor quality coming on.
Market and getting through their job is to make sure that the test that gets the market are quality test.
The fda's more, stringent standards meant that many companies didn't get their test authorized or they had to reapply. So we actually partnered with a few companies as they applied for there. Any way that was just never approved ways emergency, euthanization Soca. There are a lot of Manufacturers who have applied for these tests and they're just sitting there waiting and even when Zack did find a company with an FDA authorized test. They didn't have any in stock. What were they telling you? When you would reach out to them completely sold out. We were sometimes purchase tests and then we'd actually have the purchase order canceled, because they might be needed by the government or public health officials. And obviously that should take precedence and did, but it was touch and go for a wide variety of partners. Are you feeling in those moments frustrated? Very, very frustrated and on behalf of our patients. It was something that they were asking for that. We couldn't deliver on until now. And that's very, very frustrating when someone's asked me for something in the
I hope that I can eventually Road. Did Lana supply of test by November. The company was selling a box of 24 30 bucks, just in time for the Omicron variant and just in time for the testing shortage to get really bad.
That's after the break.
Twenty years ago energy. Giant Enron was considered one of the most Innovative companies in the world, but in late summer 2001, the company's top executive resigned out of the blue. That's that my colleague, Rebecca Smith and me on a reporting Journey with an end. We never imagined. I'm John and father from The Wall Street Journal on our new podcast. Bad bets. We unraveled big business, dramas that got a big impact on our world. Listen, wherever you get your podcasts.
There were shortages of at home covid test, before I'm a crime. But Brianna says that the new variant took those shortages to a whole new level of across the country.
They are the most sought-after items this holiday season and they can be very difficult to find. As we approach Christmas more people are trying to find covid. Testing option, has been happening for a few reasons. You saw really what has been described as sort of a perfect storm of testing to man in between really skyrocketing cases, for the holidays, people want to gather and get together. They want to use Rapid test for that purpose. You know, you see the CDC, endorse a system called test to stay which encourages the engines have things to keep kids in school instead of quarantine them at their clothes. Contact, like everybody is after these test
And some of those people were fighting them on Zachary tonnos website row. Unfortunately, we saw incredible demand. And the reason I say unfortunate is because you, you never like to see such massive demand driven by such a national shortage of tests. Right? So I mean, for us, we just been really grateful that we've been able to deliver for our patients in this time of need. We very quickly sold throughout every single state in the country and have distributed now test to all 10, National Distribution Centers and all can are constantly filling in addition to the other treatments that we offer their fulfilling covet us. Well, how did you decide how much to sell the at home test for? So we are offering the test at the manufacturer recommended price. We actually don't make any profit when someone buys a single test test. So someone purchase is one box and it's included in two days shipping, which is automatically. We actually lose money.
And if someone purchases two boxes were close to break even. So it really just depends with shipping laborer, pick packing and shipping. We don't make very much profit on this process.
So far, Zach has been able to continue selling tests. But a lot of stores are sold out in places that do have them tend to charge a lot around 25 bucks, a box. Do you want to struggle with add home? Testing hasn't been replicated everywhere different approach than since early last year. Some countries, the UK and Germany in particular made decisions that have help them avoid some of the shortages and high prices. We've seen in the states on the back of the EU, for example, was less stringent about improving test help. Bring more tests to the market, creating competition and lower prices and some governments also purchased at home test in bulk. What you did really see, is the government's step up and be more aggressive in their procurement and distribution of tests. Even as vaccines were rolling out. And they sort of
Created that demands in the US last bring lackluster demand that the deleting test manufacturer of its scale down production, but other countries, by buying in bulk created demand which gave manufacturers the incentive to keep the supply of test coming from company, sent them out to people for free, upon request, and then you saw places like Germany, either require a vaccine or a negative test to get into places like restaurants, suis other countries for the purchase them in bulk, much more aggressively distribute them to people and also sort of educate them on how they work and thought of Incorporated them more so into their overall response.
The White House has said that the rapid spread of Omicron is cuz testing shortages around the world. That testing is always been a priority for the Vitamin ministration.
So what's being done now to try to increase the supply of test tubes of actions that happened. So after the Delta religious order to his administration committee, three billion dollars to ramp up production. You saw them deal with places like Kroger and Walmart to sell the test at cost for three months. And so the price went from like 2399 to 1499 and that actually ran out at the end of December. So, now you've seen places like Walmart and Kroger increase the price for some of their test and then sort of with Omicron, the bottom information sad that on January 15th. They would release guidance. That would have insurance reimburse people for the cost of over-the-counter tests, and they also said that they were purchasing and distributing 500 million at home, test starting in January.
October the FDA partnered with the National Institutes of Health and some of the other Federal officials and what they're doing now is they are identifying manufacturers that can make a lot of high quality test encouraging them to apply through, helping them compiled data to submit for FDA review, in order to speed up that that process and make it simpler.
Just in the last few weeks. Two more large manufacturers got FDA authorization for their test. The hope is that more will follow.
Is there a lesson for governments and public health officials in this whole test shortage that we've been experiencing a Public Health crisis. You don't necessarily want to rely on Market forces to dictate something. That is a public health tool.
Anyway, we've relied on Market forces to largely dictate the supply, and the cost of these tests and we followed the demand instead of getting ahead of it. And then you see the consequences of that when the situation changes and people change their mind.
That's all for today. Thursday, January 6th. The journal is a co-production of gimlet and a Wall Street Journal. If you like the show, follow us on Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts route, every weekday afternoon.
Thanks for listening. See you tomorrow.
Some families. You're born into other families. You have to find for yourself, but every family without exception has a moment where it totally sucks.
I'm Jorge John boost of dysfunctional family. Story Time, the new show from gimlet each week. I'll tell you a story about strange family. The strange thing. Is that don't quite fit together. Help you figure out how you fit into your
The stories are funny and sad. I'll give you something to rail against or maybe to relate to the be your weird little companion to keep you company during the darkest days of the year or The Sun. Ain't depending on your hemisphere dysfunctional family story. Time is out now follow and listen for free, only on Spotify.
Login to see and leave a comments
Great episode loved the thing but the intro was a little long·10 likes·
I find these weekly podcasts to be super inspirational, they seem to always motivate me to look at my purpose. Matt not only brings in his personal life experiences but he delivers them in such a way that they are relatable.2 months ago·4 likes·
No host has claimed this podcast yet, if you are the host you can verify ownership by claiming this podcast