The Promise Of Direct-To-Consumer COVID-19 Testing: Ethical And Regulatory Issues

Abstract [from journal]

Widespread diagnostic and serological (antibody) testing is one key to mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic. While at first, the majority of COVID-19 diagnostic testing in the USA took place in healthcare settings, quickly a direct-to-consumer (DTC) testing market also emerged. In these DTC provision models, the test is initiated by a consumer and the sample collection occurs at home or in a commercial laboratory. Although the provision of DTC tests has potential benefits—such as expanding access to testing and reducing the risk of exposure for consumers and medical personnel—it also raises significant ethical and regulatory concerns. This article reviews these challenges and shows how they parallel and also diverge from prior concerns raised in the DTC health testing arena. The first part of this paper provides an overview of the landscape of diagnostic and serological tests for COVID-19, anticipating how provision models are likely to evolve in the future. The second part discusses five primary issues for DTC COVID-19 tests: test accuracy; potential misinterpretation of results; misleading claims and other misinformation; privacy concerns; and fair allocation of scarce resources. We conclude with recommendations for regulators and companies that aim to ensure ethically marketed DTC COVID-19 tests.