U.S. laboratories are not running enough COVID-19 diagnostic tests using Abbott (NYSE:ABT) m2000 RealTime machines, according to Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator.
During last night’s White House briefing, Birx said that 80% of the Abbott machines in 120 laboratories across the country are not running, despite the availability of 1 million tests. Abbott said in March, when it received FDA emergency use authorization for a coronavirus test, that each of the more than 175 m2000 systems in U.S. labs can run up to 470 tests in 24 hours. A the time, the company promised to deploy additional m2000 systems as needed.
“I made a big push and Abbott was extraordinary about getting those out to the labs,” Birx said last night. “I mean, this is not sitting in a warehouse. These are physically in these laboratories, sitting there right now.”
U.S. laboratories have only run 88,000 tests in 3 weeks off of those machines with a million test kits — 10% of their capacity, Birx noted. The high-throughput machines could have screened 100% of the healthcare workers across the country who needed testing, she added.
Abbott m2000 systems are located in academic medical centers and hospital laboratories across the country, which typically use them to test for HIV, hepatitis and similar conditions, according to a report by Bloomberg News. The problem may be with getting the machines to the areas with the highest demand for COVID-19 tests, with the appropriate testing supplies and trained staff to run them 24 hours a day, the Bloomberg report said.
“In our interactions with customers, we understand that the majority are running Covid-19 tests,” Abbott spokeswoman Kimberly Modory told Bloomberg. “Some of these labs are working to expand their capacity by increasing staff and supplies to run more shifts. In some instances states and cities are working to establish ways to send the samples to the labs that have capacity.”
Abbott also launched a 5-minute COVID-19 diagnostic test in March for use in physicians’ offices, urgent care clinics and hospital emergency departments.
Birx said she had calls scheduled with the laboratories for 8 p.m. EST yesterday and with hospital CEOs this morning. The White House has made no further statements on the subject today.
Abbott, the American Hospital Association and the American Clincial Laboratory Association did not immediately respond to requests for comment.