Update as of March 24, 2020: it seems like the FDA has blocked MyLab Box, Everlywell and Nurx from offering at-home COVID-19/coronavirus test kits. It seems like the FDA is concerned that consumers won’t be able to self-collect a sample. We will continue to monitor the news and will update this page when we learn more. Therefore, none of the self-tests that we mention below from these startups are currently available, and we don’t currently know of any authorized at-home tests for COVID-19. If you are feeling sick, talk to your doctor!! Alternatively, Hims, and online telemedicine company, recently announced virtual doctor visits.
In the United States, COVID-19 tests are currently hard to come by, with numerous news organizations documenting how hard it is for sick people to get tested. Several startup telemedicine companies, including Everlywell, MyLab Box and Nurx have announced that they are working on an at-home COVID-19 tests. When can consumers get these COVID-19 test, how much do they cost – and does it work?
Let’s dig into what we know so far about the offerings by Everlywell, Nurx and MyLab Box. But first, a quick overview of the difficulties getting a COVID-19 test in the United States right now (as of March 2020).
Stats on COVID tests in the United States
The United States has not been as fast as other countries at getting kits produced and used. It turns out that medical testing – especially for infectious diseases (where laboratories have to be very careful handling specimens) – is not easy.
This chart from the New York Times shows the differences between the volume in the US, South Korea and Italy as of March 17, 2020:
It sounds like the issues in getting enough done is due to some bureaucratic snafus, difficulty getting the virus sample needed to validate results and a lack of critical equipment. You can learn more on this coronavirus information website.
Everlywell, Nurx and MyLab Box’s at-home COVID-19 tests – a review of what we know
These three startups have all announced that they will have at-home COVID-19 tests available “soon.” Everlywell announced on March 18th that theirs would be available starting Monday, March 23 – the first to market, and the first that a consumer can simply order online without going through their own doctor. (We’ll get more into how you’ll “order” these in a moment – you do need a doctor, but the companies will supply an online doctor’s visit.)
On March 16, 2020, MyLab Box announced a pre-sale of an at-home COVID-19 test. The presale is open to medical professionals like doctor’s offices, pharmacies and more. The company also said that a direct-to-consumer option is on the way soon. Like Everlywell, this company has telemedicine doctor visits where a doctor can assess your symptoms to see if you are in danger of having the coronavirus.
And on March 19th, Nurx announced that they will soon launch their own version. although they don’t yet have a date announced for the launch.
What this means is that the product is not currently available from most of these providers, but they expect to have it ready for purchase soon.
Since these companies are all in the process of rolling out their kits, we’ve complied a list of the dates that they’ve made their announcements and the dates that they’ll start offering the at-home COVID-19 kits:
- MyLab Box: March 16, 2020
- Everlywell: March 18, 2020
- Nurx: March 19, 2020
- Everlywell: March 23, 2020
- MyLab Box: TBD
- Nurx: TBD
How are these companies offering COVID-19 tests?
These startups all have experience providing telemedicine directly to consumers. In other words, they offer online doctor consultations, using licensed physicians. And then these doctors can prescribe real medicines if the patient has a condition that can be treated with one of their offerings.
For example, My Lab Box currently offers a number of at-home medical tests that come in bundles for STDs/STIs like HIV, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and others. They also have kits for conditions like diabetes, Vitamin D screening, gluten-sensitivity and celiac disease – and more. It’s simple to get one of their current offerings – here is what you do.
How to get an at home test from MyLab Box
The steps to get an at home test from MyLab Box:
- Visit their site
- For the current STD offerings, select your sex (male/female)
- Select a test bundle -they have a few bundles: 5-panel, 8-panel and 14-panel (panel = the number of conditions they check for)
- Add the bundle to your cart
- Proceed to the checkout
- Enter your billing information and your shipping information
- The company will mail your kit
- The kit will have instructions on how you should collect a sample – don’t worry, they are all painless (it’s not like you have to draw blood or anything!) The site says, “Simply pee in a cup, swab or prick your finger”
- Return the sample to the company using the enclosed return packaging
- It usually take three to five days for them to analyze the results (after they get the package back) and then they post your results online
- The company has physicians available for telemedicine consultations if you have questions after you get your results, or you can take your results to your primary card doctor and discuss it with him/her
So, it’s pretty easy to do an at-home test with MyLab Box. When they launch their COVID-19/coronavirus test, they say that it will come with free 24 hour shipping and telemedicine consultations if you purchase it directly from them.
What will the COVID-19 test from MyLab Box, Everlywell and Nurx cost?
These three companies have come out with low-cost, at-home tests. Everlywell says that their COVID-19 test will cost $135 ($30 more for overnight shipping). This includes the doctor’s consultation. MyLab Box’s test cost is not yet known, but they currently offer a variety of at-home kits from $69 to several hundred dollars each. Scanwell and Lemonaid Health are teaming up to offer one, which will supposedly be $70, although we have yet to see more about this option. The Nurx test cost is also not yet known.
Things we’ll look out for when they launch
There have been a lot of reports in China about “fake” medicines and other medical quackery exploiting the COVID-19 crisis. Our impression of these services are trying to provide real medical advice under the proper regulation here in the US. For example, MyLab Box says that they are an “an FDA registered company” and that work “only with the best high-complexity CLIA and CAP certified laboratories in the US ensuring your results are just as reliable as those done in the lab or clinic.”
When theses companies launch their COVID-19 in home testing kits, we’ll want to make sure that they are still using certified laboratories and that the FDA approves of their methods, process, etc. We suggest that you carefully read their site after they launch this product to make sure you feel comfortable with the accuracy of their service.
Important update on March 22: The FDA recently issued a warning that at-home coronavirus tests are not authorized. It’s not clear if this warning was directed toward the work that Nurx, Everlywell and other telemedicine startups are working on. Reading the FDA’s warning, they say, “We want to alert the American public that, at this time, the FDA has not authorized any test that is available to purchase for testing yourself at home for COVID-19. The FDA sees the public health value in expanding the availability of COVID-19 testing through safe and accurate tests that may include home collection, and we are actively working with test developers in this space.“
Nurx COVID-19 test
Telemedicine provider Nurx has also announced that they will offer an at home test for COVID-19. Just like MyLab Box, this is not yet available. Nurx says that they’ll work with one of their current laboratory partners, Molecular Testing Labs. They say that this lab “is a CAP Accredited and CLIA Licensed laboratory with extensive experience in infectious diseases and home testing validation. Molecular is working to validate and introduce a COVID-19 home test for those patients who may have been exposed to the virus.”
This is another exciting telemedicine provider trying to help with the current health crisis! It’s exciting to see that startups are trying to step into the breach and help the US healthcare system combat this once in a generation issue.
Everlywell’s COVID-19 test
They are probably best known for their STD tests, but now offer over 30 different ones. It sounds like their COVID-19 test will require the consumer to do a cheek swab, which means using a tool that kind of looks like a big Q-tip to take a sample from inside of their cheek.
Does it work?
Since we (thankfully!) aren’t yet experiencing any symptoms, we don’t have a need for this yet. But if we do, we hope that online / at-home options from reputable providers like Everlywell, Nurx or MyLab Box are ready so that we don’t have to visit busy, crowded and potentially dangerous doctor waiting rooms.
Or if you try it before we do, leave a comment and let us know about your experience. And we hope you are healthy, safe and actually don’t have to try either one!