The company that runs a Maine factory making a widely used rapid test for COVID-19 disputed a Friday report in the New York Times saying it destroyed millions of the tests in June and July as the pandemic waned and vaccinated people no longer required them.
Abbott Laboratories, which has operations in Westbrook and Scarborough, instructed workers to take apart the products, the newspaper said. It laid off about 300 workers in July in Westbrook and another 2,000 at its Illinois plant that also made the BinaxNOW test, which provides results in about 15 minutes. The Times said the company also canceled contracts with suppliers.
Abbott disputed the newspaper’s account in a statement late Friday, saying it has not destroyed any finished BinaxNOW product or usable test components needed by the market that could have been donated. It said card components shown by the Times were disposed of because they were at their seven-month shelf life.
The company said it has been storing some test kit components that were in short supply during the pandemic so it could scale up if needed.
“Because Abbott maintained usable test components, we’re now able to scale up,” the company said.
The rapid test sold well after its release last fall. The company told investors in January that it sold $2.4 billion worth of coronavirus tests, mostly rapid ones, in the last quarter of 2020.
Sales dropped in June, however, after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said vaccinated people without symptoms did not need to be tested any longer.
An Abbott spokesperson told the newspaper that the company is trying to scale up manufacturing quickly, but that “there will be some supply constraints over the coming weeks.”
Abbott reportedly invited workers back to the factory in Maine this month. The company did not immediately respond to a request for information on how many workers would be rehired and how soon tests would be widely available.