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Rapid Antigen Tests for COVID-19: How Do I Choose? 

April 18, 2022
Elizabeth Reilly

Rapid Antigen Tests for COVID-19: How Do I Choose? 

The other day I went online to order an at-home COVID-19 rapid antigen test (RAT).  The number of options was mind-boggling! How are people supposed to choose? Are they just picking the cheapest test? Or the one at the top of the list? 

Unfortunately, not all rapid antigen tests (RATs) are created equal. Although the FDA has not yet granted full approval to any at-home RATs, many have undergone an expedited review and subsequently received emergency use authorization (EUA). 

The key takeaway as you scroll through the myriad options is to simply verify that the test which makes it into your shopping cart has also made it onto the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) updated list of authorized diagnostic tests: In Vitro Diagnostics EUAs - Antigen Diagnostic Tests for SARS-CoV-2 | FDA

The FDA’s list currently has seventeen antigen tests that have received EUA, listed in alphabetical order by manufacturer. If you click on the highlighted link for a test (on the left side of the screen) you will be linked to home use instructions for that test. Other information on the list includes the test type (antigen or molecular), when to use the test (for example, if you’ve experienced symptoms within the last 7 days), eligible age range, whether or not a smartphone is required to view the results, the type of sample (eg nasal swab), and how long it takes for test results to be available. 

Reassuringly, the top three at-home rapid antigen COVID-19 tests at both Amazon (BinaxNOW, iHealth COVID-19 Rapid Test and BD Veritor) and CVS (iHealth, BinaxNOW, and FlowFlex) are all FDA authorized. 

A test's accuracy can wane as new SARS-CoV-2 variants emerge. Therefore, it is important to continue to check the FDA’s updated site to make sure that the test you are ordering has received authorization or approval.

                                                                                                               

Amazon at-home COVID-19 tests (screenshot; not inclusive)                        FDA's list of authorized at-Home over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic tests (screenshot; not inclusive)

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