Abbott Labs Gets FDA Emergency Nod for Coronavirus Tests

Abbott Labs joins list of companies receiving emergency Food and Drug Administration approval to mass-produce a coronavirus test; Roche testing arthritis drug.

Abbott Labs  (ABT) - Get Report has joined the growing list of biotech and biomedical companies receiving emergency Food and Drug Administration approval to mass-produce a test for the coronavirus.

The company announced that it has received emergency FDA approval to begin mass-producing and distributing its molecular test for Covid-19. Abbott said it was immediately shipping 150,000 tests to customers in the United States and will continue to ramp up production to hit a goal of providing up to 1 million tests per week.

"A global challenge like coronavirus requires the commitment and cooperation of everyone who has the ability to help address it," CEO Miles White said in a statement.

The tests will help meet a major U.S. shortfall of diagnostic capabilities that has severely limited the nation’s ability to track the spread of the outbreak.

The rapid escalation in U.S. cases of Covid-19 has concerned health officials and spurred calls from lawmakers for action to expand testing capacity to determine who is or isn't carrying the disease. 

Researchers initially believed the virus only spread among symptomatic people, but more recently have concluded that asymptomatic individuals may be spreading the disease without even knowing it. Governors around the country have been begging for more test kits.

Roche Testing Arthritis Drug on Covid-19 Patients

Meantime, drug maker Roche  (RHHBY) , which late last week also received emergency FDA approval to mass-produce its own coronavirus test kits and analyze the results, said it was testing one of its arthritis drugs in patients with Covid-19-linked pneumonia.

Tocilizumab, sold under the name Actemra and made by the Swiss pharmaceutical company, is a prescription medicine used to treat adults with moderate to severe active rheumatoid arthritis, as well as certain types of juvenile arthritis.

Doctors in China have used tocilizumab to prevent an overreaction of the immune system that has led to organ failure and death in coronavirus patients. An initial clinical trial in China used Actemra in 20 severe Covid-19 cases.

Nineteen of the patients were discharged from the hospital within two weeks and one got better, according to China’s National Health Commission.

The drug has now been approved for use in China, but has not yet been approved in the U.S.

Shares of Abbott Labs were down 4.39% at $76.05 in trading on Thursday.