CVS Health puts purchase cap on OTC COVID tests as demand surges

CVS Health this week is reportedly started limiting purchases of rapid, OTC COVID-19 tests, with a maximum of six packages online and four in pharmacies, as demand spreads due to the Delta variant.
Sandra Levy
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CVS Health is reportedly limiting customers’ purchases of rapid, over-the-counter COVID-19 tests, with a maximum of six packages available online and four in its pharmacies, in response to the increased demand for the test amid the spread of the Delta variant, according to a Bloomberg report.  

The limits, which went into place this week, apply to Abbott Laboratories’s BinaxNOW tests and Ellume’s OTC tests, according to the report, which cited an email from a CVS spokesperson. Both tests are available without a prescription. 

According to the CVS spokesperson, online availability of rapid COVID-19 tests can shift based on demand, and the company is working with its suppliers to meet testing needs, the report said. 

[Read more:FDA clears first OTC at-home COVID-19 test]

The change was made this week “in order to serve our customers’ OTC testing needs, and due to high demand,” according to the email.

Emails to Walgreens and Rite Aid about whether they were planning to limit the number of tests consumers can purchase were not immediately returned Friday. 

Abbott said in a statement that supplies of the tests will be constrained in the coming weeks as manufacturing ramps back up.

[Read more:CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, and Walmart now selling Abbott's at-home COVID-19 test OTC]

“Just as we have done throughout the pandemic, Abbott is deploying our resources and expertise from all over the company to help quickly meet rising demand,” the company said.

Ellume is scaling production and working with retailers to ensure consumer access to its tests, which are in stock at CVS, Walmart, Target and Everlywell stores, a spokesperson for the Australia-based company told Bloomberg an email.

Test manufacturers, including Abbott Laboratories, Becton Dickinson, and Quidel who had scaled back production of rapid COVID-19 tests in recent months, as well as test kits that are sent to laboratories for analysis, are changing course, according to a Reuters report

According to the report, as demand for the tests decreased, Abbott in June shut down two production lines in Maine and closed a manufacturing plant in Illinois. Around the same time, Quidel shifted production away from COVID-19 tests. Becton Dickinson had also scaled back production in recent months.

Now, with the Delta variant pushing U.S. COVID-19 cases well above 100,000 per day, test makers are working to quickly reverse course, industry executives and state officials told Reuters.

"We’re hiring people and turning on parts of our manufacturing network that were idled or slowed when guidance changed and demand plunged," Abbott said in a statement.

However, testmakers including Abbott and Becton Dickinson cautioned that there may be supply constraints in the near term.

“With the rise of cases from the Delta variant... there is currently some tightness in supply as manufacturers ramp back up," said Troy Kirkpatrick, a spokesperson for Becton Dickinson, adding that the company expects inventory levels "will normalize over the next couple of weeks," the report stated.