If you’ve received expired COVID-19 tests from your local pharmacy or the University of Maryland health center, you may still be able to use them under the FDA’s new guidance on testing kit expiration dates.
While use of expired tests is not advised, the Food and Drug Administration has extended the expiration date of some COVID-19 testing kits. Some test manufacturers have notified the FDA that certain testing kits may still be valid beyond their written expiration date, according to Kristen Coleman, an assistant applied environmental health professor at this university’s public health school.
Results from these expired tests may be inaccurate and produce false results because components of the testing kits may degrade over time, Coleman said. Depending on the type of test, the included chemical solutions, plastic containers or cotton swabs used could eventually degrade, producing inaccurate results.
But stability tests that COVID-19 testing kit manufacturers conducted show that some kits could still produce valid results.
“Tests still might be valid, so don’t throw out an expired test until you’ve checked the FDA website,” Coleman said.
This university’s health center offers free COVID-19 antigen testing kits to university community members. Students at this university are advised to check the status of their COVID-19 tests via the HEAL website and the FDA website, as well as through signs in the health center’s front lobby, a university spokesperson wrote in an email to The Diamondback.
According to second year epidemiology and biostatistics doctoral student Nora Jameson, there is a lack of tests everywhere — as COVID-19 is evolving much faster than the ability to create new tests that can detect the virus most effectively.
“The demand for tests ebbs and flows depending on the community transmission of COVID,” Coleman said. “It’s hard to pinpoint a steady manufacturing rate of these tests when the virus has these peaks, and demand kind of shifts from time to time.”
According to Coleman, based on knowledge of the virus’ behavior, manufacturers are likely equipped to start rolling out a steady flow of new tests — but not so many that they eventually expire.
Even if tests aren’t expired, the rise and fall of case transmission and the new COVID-19 variant mean that old tests from the previous surges may also show false results, Jameson said.
Jameson added that going to a physician's office to get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms is advisable to prevent long COVID-19 or other complications, but at-home testing kits are a good starting point.
“Using an expired test is better than no test,” Jameson said.