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Abbott sold $2.1 billion worth of rapid COVID-19 tests in the last three months of 2021

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 1/27/2022 Lisa Schencker, Chicago Tribune
Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW, an at-home-rapid-covid test, two-pack cost $23.99. © Hannah Norman/KHN/TNS Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW, an at-home-rapid-covid test, two-pack cost $23.99.

As people across the country continue to grab at-home, COVID-19 tests off store shelves, Abbott Laboratories — the maker of one of the most popular of those tests — reported a stellar fourth quarter and financial year.

The north suburban-based company, which makes the BinaxNOW test and others, sold $2.1 billion worth of rapid COVID-19 tests during the last three months of 2021, the company reported Wednesday. Abbott’s total sales for last year were $43.1 billion, up 22.9%. The company beat estimates and its own earnings-per-share guidance.

Abbott has distributed more than 1.4 billion COVID-19 tests globally since the pandemic began, including 300 million just during the last three months of last year, said Abbott Chairman and CEO Robert Ford during an earnings call Wednesday.

In December, demand for at-home tests far outstripped supply across the country, as the omicron variant sent cases soaring just as people gathered for Christmas and the New Year.

“We continue to play a vital role in combating COVID-19,” Ford said.


Video: Increased Demand For COVID-19 Tests Creates Backlog For Laboratories (CBS Chicago)

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Abbott expects to sell another $2.5 billion worth of COVID-19 tests early this year.

Though COVID-19 test sales boosted Abbott’s overall performance, other parts of its business also did well last year. Its sales of medical devices grew by about 22% in 2021 compared with 2020, and its nutrition sales grew by about 8.5%, with products such as Ensure and Glucerna performing strongly.

“The challenge throughout the pandemic has been the sheer breadth of its impacts, and for Abbott it’s reinforced the value of our diversified business model,” Ford said.

When asked what Abbott would do if demand for COVID-19 dives, Ford said the company would make “adjustments.”

“If COVID testing, in that scenario, which I think is highly unlikely, kind of falls off, then we’ll have to obviously look at the investments we’re making and make the adjustments we have to make, especially as we start to move into 2023,” Ford said. “I don’t think that is the case. I think that COVID testing is going to be still around. I think omicron has catalyzed a pretty significant shift in global rapid testing and screening, and the question here is going to be how does it evolve over the next nine months, 12 months here.”

Late last year, Abbott reopened a Gurnee facility that made rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests after closing it earlier in the year after demand for the tests dropped. Demand rose again as COVID-19 surged in the fall and winter.

The Biden administration is also now giving out four free at-home COVID-19 tests per household through a new website, and Abbott is part of that program. The federal government is also now requiring health insurance companies to cover the costs of eight at-home COVID-19 tests per person per month, though people with Medicare will not have those tests covered.

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