Sunday Apr 02, 2023

Drugstores struggle to keep Covid at-home tests in stock as omicron rages across U.S. – CNBC


A sign at a CVS store in Brooklyn notifying shoppers there are no more at home Covid-19 tests available on Dec. 21st, 2021.

Leslie Josephs | CNBC

George Panagiotopoulos has been struggling to keep at-home Covid-19 tests in stock at Broadway Chemists pharmacy in New York City as coronavirus cases surge to new highs.

A shipment of 200 tests received the Saturday before Christmas sold out “within a couple of hours,” he said.

Panagiotopoulos, who owns the pharmacy, had a list of 110 people waiting for him to restock at-home tests the Tuesday before Christmas. That shipment of 150 kits arrived two days late and sold out within 48 hours, he said. Broadway Chemists received another shipment of 150 tests on Dec. 30, but most of them were gone in a day.

As of Friday afternoon, the pharmacy had just 20 to 30 tests left in stock. Panagiotopoulos expects demand to remain high with the return to school after the holidays as parents seek to test their kids.

His experience is playing out in Covid hotspots across the country as infections reached all-time highs, driven largely by the highly contagious omicron variant.

‘Tsunami of demand’

Bidding war

Abbott, which received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its BinaxNOW home test in March, is experiencing “unprecedented demand,” said spokesman John Koval.

“We’re sending them out as fast as we can make them,” he said. “This includes running our U.S. manufacturing facilities 24/7, hiring more workers and investing in automation,” he said.

Shaz Amin, the founder of a company that sells at-home tests online, said the surge in demand has allowed distributors to hike prices as buyers like his company, WellBefore, are facing a bidding war to secure limited supply.

“Whatever we were paying for test kits a week ago, we’re paying 25% higher today,” said Amin. “Someone is in line behind us saying, ‘I’ll give you 25 cents more to take what WellBefore’s allocation is.’ “

Amin said the shortage means that Covid test kits are sold before they arrive.

Payment upfront

Ryen Neuman, vice president of logistics at Sunline Supply and Arnold’s Office Furniture, a company that turned to supplying personal protective equipment and test kits for clients during the pandemic, said they normally pay a 10% deposit on an order for health and safety products and then the rest when it arrives.

But for Covid test kits, they “have to pay 100% of the product prior to even seeing it, looking at it, smelling it, anything,” because tests are in such high demand, Neuman said, noting that he thinks the market for the kits will be “tight” for at least six months.

“It just seems as though the production is not able to ramp up to what the American population needs right now,” he said.

Several wholesale buyers said they are trying to stock some of the lesser-known brands that have been approved for sale by the FDA and work similarly to Abbott’s BinaxNOW and Quidel’s QuickVue. Neuman, for example, said some distributors of the more popular tests are overcharging, making the lesser-known brands more appealing.

Shortage of raw materials

Matt Regan, president and CEO of medical goods distributor Code 1 Supply, said Thursday that the supply of kit components dried up over the previous seven to 10 days. Regan said business partners have told him there’s …….


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