Do expired COVID-19 rapid tests work? Experts explain precision

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If you’ve accumulated a stockpile of rapid home COVID-19 tests during the pandemic — including a handful of free products delivered by the government to your home — you might be surprised to learn that many of these products have a fairly limited shelf life. This is why federal health officials from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that they have extended the expiration dates on a number of home rapid antigen tests that are sold in pharmacies and clinics across the United States Currently, nine different brands have had their COVID-19 rapid antigen test expiration dates expired through 2022 (all of which are highlighted in the section below).

Depending on the brand you purchased or received, you may be able to use an “expired” test without risking an inaccurate result. But it’s crucial to check the FDA’s updated announcements on COVID-19 tests and their expiration dates, as medical experts say an older test has expired. may contain test materials that have degraded beyond maximum performance, which may likely result in an overall inaccurate test.

“While we cannot know the precise decrease in accuracy, an expired COVID-19 home test no longer qualifies as something appropriate for human testing,” explains Emily Volk, MD, FCAPthe president of the College of American Pathologists.

“The problem is that it wouldn’t work as expected and the accuracy would be reduced, but we just don’t know if it’s 0.1% or 20%,” she adds.

Below, we identify the list of rapid home COVID-19 tests that have new extended expiration dates that are being monitored by FDA officials – along with answers to all your questions about using one. expired COVID-19 test.

Which COVID-19 tests have extended timelines set by the FDA?

It is not uncommon for manufacturers to request up-to-date advice on medical tests; as many COVID-19 rapid tests on the market were approved over a year ago, the FDA may be requested to extend their official shelf life for a number of reasons. Dr. Volk explains that the main reason FDA officials extended deadlines was related to a myriad of supply chain issues (which also affected infant formula and tampons) in late 2021 and 2022, primarily in the aim of avoiding any potential regional shortage and unnecessary waste.

“They reviewed the expiration dates they had put on the initial batch of over-the-counter COVID tests and realized that it would be safe and appropriate to extend…without risking a decrease in the performance characteristics of those tests,” said Dr. Volk adds.

Announcements of these extensions have been made as early as May 2022, with nine different rapid tests currently receiving approval for use past their printed expiration dates.

FDA officials maintain a full list of the 22 approved self-administered COVID-19 tests and their expiration status, which includes product batch information for items that have actually been extended.

Here are the COVID-19 test products with official extended expiration dates:

Most of these products had expiration dates extended up to 6 months after their print date; these include recently manufactured tests which may indicate an expiration date of late 2022, which is now extended to early 2023.

We will continue to monitor the FDA’s live list of COVID-19 tests and update this guide as needed.

Why does a COVID-19 test have an expiration date?

Most people don’t notice an expiration date printed on many types of medical tests that are often self-administered, Dr. Volk says, including everything from glucose test strips to pregnancy tests. An expiration date on a medical test, COVID-19 tests included, simply indicates the last day the test should work effectively.

“It is intended to ensure that you have materials that have not degraded or reached a point where they are no longer as effective as they were when originally packaged,” adds Dr. Volk, explaining that the liquid reagent used in COVID-19 tests suspend nasal swabs are particularly at risk.

Usually, the FDA authorizes medical home testing kits for periods between six and 12 months – the case for many currently approved COVID-19 test kits and their shelf life. Manufacturers can ask FDA officials for an extension if they are able to provide evidence to suggest extended accuracy beyond its printed expiration date, as medical officials publicly noted.

Should I use an expired COVID-19 test?

The short answer? No, unless it is a test kit with an extended date by the FDA. Federal health officials say an expiration date indicates a point at which materials in a COVID-19 test kit are likely to degrade, which is an easy way to produce invalid or inaccurate test results. especially for those who feel actively ill.

“If a test has truly passed an FDA-approved expiration date, it really shouldn’t be used to test a patient… past that expiration date, so [FDA officials] can no longer provide that security or assurance,” says Dr. Volk, adding that expiration dates play a huge role in assuring Americans that the chemicals in the test kit will work as intended. more than meets the qualifications of a test suitable for human use.”

If you’ve noticed that your tests have officially expired, don’t try to use them anyway – remember that those with health insurance are currently entitled to fully refundable (or free!) tests, up to eight individual tests per month, part of a federal COVID-19 program.

The bottom line:

If you’ve had COVID-19 test kits in your home for a while, check with the FDA to see if their expiration dates have been extended — and if not, be sure to get them. eliminate immediately.

Taking a rapid home test is a smart move for those who suspect they have COVID-19, but if you only noticed after taking one test that it expired, it’s time to try another. itinerary.

“Expired or unexpired, if you have symptoms of COVID-19 and have recently been exposed, you should get a lab PCR test from a health care provider,” Dr. Volk says, adding that a rapid test is only an indicator of health. You will likely need further confirmation and help from a health care provider in any case, whether your home test is expired or brand new.

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