(Adds details from conference call and HHS letter to Nevada)
Oct 9 (Reuters) - Nevada’s recent ban on the use of Quidel Corp’s Sofia and Becton Dickinson and Co’s Veritor point-of-care antigen tests for COVID-19 in long-term care facilities violates federal law, a U.S. government official said on Friday.
Nevada's public health department last week issued a directive here requiring skilled nursing facilities in the state to immediately discontinue use of all COVID-19 point-of-care antigen tests until their accuracy can be better evaluated. The directive specifically cited the Quidel and Becton tests.
Point-of-care tests are administered on site and do not need to be shipped to a lab for results.
An official of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Friday said the directive was a violation of federal law and put lives at risk, adding that any accuracy problems with the tests are offset by the public health benefits of the rapid results they provide. HHS issued a letter on Thursday ordering Nevada to retract the directive.
“The letter from Nevada officials can only be interpreted as reflecting a fundamental lack of basic knowledge about testing and interpreting results,” Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a press briefing.
Nevada officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The letter sent to Nevada said the ban violated a federal law that preempts a state or local prohibition on the use of COVID-19 tests authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to individuals at “congregate facilities.”
Giroir declined to comment on how HHS would compel Nevada to comply if Nevada refused to retract the directive.
He said Nevada’s directive does not apply to BinaxNOW rapid antigen tests produced by Abbott Laboratories. The Trump administration in August said it would purchase and deploy 150 million Abbott rapid tests around the country to assist in school reopenings and other essential tasks.
“This week we distributed about 6.3 million of additional BinaxNOW tests. Just under 5 million went to states, with the prioritization we requested for K-12 openings but also other infrastructure,” Giroir said during the Friday press call.
Becton Dickinson defended its test. The company “has full confidence in our Veritor Plus system, and based on the information in the directive, we believe the test is performing as intended in Nevada,” Dave Hickey, president of integrated diagnostic solutions at Becton Dickinson, said in a statement. (Reporting by Carl O’Donnell in New York and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler)
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.