PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Another at-home COVID-19 test has received FDA authorization, joining hundreds of other at-home tests that have circulated since the pandemic began. Public health experts warn some of them may not be legitimate.
This week, Lucira Health announced the FDA had cleared it with Emergency Use Authorization. A spokesman described the test Thursday as a lab in the palm of your hands. To use the kit, you swab your nose, put the samples into a small device, and get results in under 30 minutes. This test is unique because it does not require a lab and will be available by prescription only.
Dr. Shad Marvasti, director of Public Health and Prevention at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, is encouraged by the new test. He says accessibility to tests that can deliver rapid results will help people stop the spread of COVID-19. But he is encouraging consumers to do their homework before using any at-home test, even if it's been approved by the FDA.
"What happened initially was the FDA was approving anything and everything under the sun with respect to testing for COVID-19 without it having to prove any kind of effectiveness," says Marvasti. "Then they basically kind of went back and said a bunch of these are no longer any good because we actually looked at the data."
Dr. Marvasti says it's important to have a discussion with your doctor before using at-home tests and possibly wasting your money.
On a scale for accuracy, Marvasti says molecular PCR tests are the gold standard for detecting infection and require processing by a lab, which may take up to two days. Antigen tests, like saliva tests, are not as accurate as PCR tests but require less time for processing. The new Lucira test is a molecular test that delivers rapid results. The company's website says it is 94% accurate at detecting the virus.
A spokesman for Lucira says the COVID-19 test should be widely available around April as the company is now focusing its efforts on manufacturing. Once it hits the market, the kit is expected to cost about $50.
While many Americans are seeking tests ahead of holiday gatherings, Dr. Marvasti encourages caution. You can have the virus for up to two weeks without it showing up on a test.
"You don't want to get a false sense of security thinking you're safe for others just because you had a negative test," says Marvasti.