But the timing of the FDA’s emergency authorization and the administration’s pending announcement — pegged to Trump’s primetime speech — has raised questions about whether the decisions were held for political benefit. Two officials said that the plan to grant emergency authorization for the Abbott tests and subsequently purchase millions of them has been under consideration for at least a week.
Public health experts have long clamored for cheap, rapid coronavirus tests that could provide results at the point of care. “They need to be used in the right way,” said former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who previously worked in the Trump administration and called for the development of such tests in January. “But they have the potential to change our response.”
The BinaxNOW test, which requires a nasal swab, is different from Abbott’s ID NOW test, which the White House has relied on for rapid testing despite the potential for false-negatives. The new test uses the same lateral-flow technology as over-the-counter pregnancy tests — displaying its results on small card, rather than a stick.
Details about the Trump administration’s contract, overseen in a joint effort between HHS and the Defense Department, were publicly posted on a government contracting website on Thursday afternoon. Abbott declined to comment.
The Trump administration has come under scrutiny for its posture on coronavirus testing, including this week for White House-directed changes to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance to stop promoting testing for people without symptoms. Administration officials have maintained that physicians and the CDC signed off on the change.
David Lim contributed to this report.