FDA Provides Flexibility to Improve COVID-19 Test Availability

Gregory Twachtman

March 17, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The Food and Drug Administration announced three measures aimed at improving the testing capacity for COVID-19.

First, the FDA is giving states more flexibility to approve and implement testing for COVID-19.

"States can set up a system in which they take responsibility for authorizing such tests and the laboratories will not engage with the FDA," agency Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, said in a March 16 statement announcing the policy updates. "Laboratories developing tests in these states can engage directly with the appropriate state authorities, instead of with the FDA."

A copy of the updated guidance document can be found here.

Dr. Hahn added that laboratories working within this authority granted to states will not have to pursue an emergency use authorization (EUA). New York state was previously granted a waiver to allow for more state oversight over the introduction of diagnostic testing.

Second, the FDA is expanding guidance issued on Feb. 29 on who can develop diagnostic tests. Originally, the Feb. 29 guidance was aimed at labs certified to perform high-complexity testing consistent with requirements outlined in the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments.

"Under the update published today, the agency does not intend to object to commercial manufacturers distributing and labs using new commercially developed tests prior to the FDA granting an EUA, under certain circumstances," Commissioner Hahn said, adding that a number of commercial manufacturers are developing tests for the coronavirus with the intent of submitting an EUA request.

"During this public health emergency, the FDA does not intend to object to the distribution and use of these tests for specimen testing for a reasonable period of time after the manufacturer's validation of the test while the manufacturer is preparing its EUA request," he added.

The updated guidance also provides recommendations for test developers working on serologic tests for COVID-19.

During a March 16 conference call with reporters, Commissioner Hahn said the flexibility would add a "significant number of tests and we believe this will be a surge to meet the demand that we expect to see, although it is somewhat difficult" to quantify the number of tests this new flexibility will bring to the market.

This story originally appeared on MDedge.com.

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