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Where can I buy an at-home test kit for COVID-19 (coronavirus)?

Medically reviewed by Leigh Ann Anderson, PharmD Last updated on Apr 22, 2020.

Official Answer

by Drugs.com

You have a cough and some mild body aches, but you’d prefer not to go to the doctor’s office to be tested for COVID-19. Is there at-home test kit for COVID-19 you can use to test yourself?

On April 20th, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the first at-home COVID-19 test collection kit so you can test yourself at home. The test kit is made by LabCorp and is known as the Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test home collection kit, using COVID-19 RT-PCR technology. Your sample is returned to LabCorp to determine the result.

This is a diagnostic test to see if you are currently infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It is NOT an antibody test that evaluates your immune status.

Initial roll out of the kits will be prioritized for health care providers and first responders who may have been exposed to the virus or may have coronavirus symptoms. However, in the coming weeks, consumers in most states will have access to the kits with a doctor's order, according to LabCorp.

Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 Test home collection kit was reissued under an emergency use authorization (EUA).

The FDA has stated in the past that COVID-19 at-home testing is a valuable resource but approvals need to keep a balance between patient safety and the urgent need for testing.

The FDA recently warned American consumers of unauthorized fraudulent test kits being marketed to test for COVID-19 in the home. Fraudulent health claims, tests, and products may pose serious health risks and keep some patients from seeking treatment or delay medical care.

How does LabCorp's Self-Collection Kit for COVID-19 work?

  • At-home testing for coronavirus is fairly straightforward. After completing an online health screening survey about your symptoms, and approval from a doctor, you will purchase the self-collection test kit online. The cost for at-home COVID-19 testing is $119. Check with your insurance for coverage.
  • Once your order is placed, Pixel by LabCorp will send the COVID-19 test kit to your home. Instructions are included.
  • The kits contains a Q-Tip-style cotton nasal swab and saline. Other swabs should not be used.
  • Once your sample is collected, you mail your sample in an insulated package to LabCorp for testing.
  • You’ll receive an email notification when your secure online results are ready.
  • After receiving your COVID-19 results, you can talk to a licensed physician who will answer questions you may have about your results.

The Pixel by LabCorp at-home COVID-19 test kit may be right for you if you:

  • Are currently experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Live in or recently traveled to an area with an ongoing spread of COVID-19.
  • Have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19.
  • Think you have been exposed to COVID-19.

As noted by LabCorp, self-collection will help prevent the risk of transmitting the virus to others and will lower the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) as the tests do not require a clinician to perform the collection.

Are other companies selling at-home test kits for COVID-19?

Other than LabCorp, a flurry of start-up companies in the U.S. had already started development of at-home testing kits that are now on hold, pending an OK from the FDA. The test kits are not authorized.

  • Nurx, a telemedicine company, and Carbon Health, a primary care group, stated their kits were valid as they were processed in labs compliant with FDA guidelines. Both companies have currently halted distribution of the kits, according to STAT. Experts warned the kits might not meet the standards for approval or accurate results, and the kits were pulled.
  • Other companies offering kits included Everylywell and myLAB Box, but those plans have also come to a standstill.
  • Scanwell Health is developing an at-home diagnostic test that scans for COVID-19 antibodies in a blood test using a mobile platform, according to MobiHealthNews. This process avoids mailing the sample.

At-home test kits for COVID-19 research

There are other reports of in-home testing kits in the US being used for research.

The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) located in King County, Seattle, Washington is a collaboration of medical, public health and research groups collecting data to understand the spread of COVID-19 in the greater Seattle region, a hard-hit area of the country.

SCAN is considered a virus tracking system. SCAN is testing both healthy and sick adults and children in the greater Seattle and King County area for  research and surveillance purposes. In order to get a test kit, which are in high demand and often not available, you must live in the greater Seattle/King County area.

How does SCAN work?

  • SCAN kits are only available through the SCAN website.
  • After signing up with a survey, the nasal swab test kit is mailed to your home where you will perform the nasal swab and return it to them.
  • It’s not a clinical service, but you can still get the confidential results of your test online.
  • Those with a positive result will be contacted by a health care worker on behalf of public health. 

SCAN can’t test every individual, but will have the capacity to test up to 300 nasal swab kits each day. The self-swab collection method used by SCAN is only approved for COVID-19 testing in Washington state. It’s important to know that SCAN is not a replacement for medical care. If you have fever, shortness of breath, or need medical information, call a health care provider immediately.

Bottom Line for LabCorp's at-home test kits

  • The first at-home collection test kit has been authorized for use in the US by the FDA. Consumer access to these kits is expected in the coming weeks. It involves a nasal swab.
  • The kits, from LabCorp, are known as the COVID-19 RT-PCR Test using the Pixel by LabCorp COVID-19 home collection kit. They can be ordered online with a doctor's approval. They are mailed back to LabCorp for testing and results.
  • The FDA states that the data shows the home sample collection is as safe and accurate as that done in the doctor's office, hospital or other testing site.
References
  1. SCAN. Accessed March 27, 2020 at https://scanpublichealth.org/
  2. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Alerts Consumers About Unauthorized Fraudulent COVID-19 Test Kits. Accessed March 27, 2020 at https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-alerts-consumers-about-unauthorized-fraudulent-covid-19-test-kits
  3. Brodwin E. Startups touting at-home coronavirus tests suspend plans after FDA warning. STAT. Accessed March 27, 2020 at https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/24/nurx-carbon-coronavirus-at-home-tests/
  4. Muoio D. At-home COVID-19 testing services pump the brakes after FDA warns of 'fraudulent' kits. MobiHealthNews. https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/home-covid-19-testing-services-pump-brakes-after-fda-warns-fraudulent-kits
  5. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Authorizes First Test for Patient At-Home Sample Collection. Accessed April 22, 2020 at https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-authorizes-first-test-patient-home-sample-collection
  6. Introducing Self-Collection Kits for COVID-19 Testing. Pixel by LabCorp. Accessed April 22, 2020 at https://www.pixel.labcorp.com/blog/introducing-self-collection-kits-covid-19-testing

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