Two Democratic senators on Thursday called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate reports of Covid rapid test price gouging, CBS News reports.
Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey and Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal sent a letter to FTC Chair Lina Khan raising concerns that the spread of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant has created conditions that are "unfortunately ideal for predatory and profiteering behavior, including the sale of fraudulent test kits or charging exorbitant prices for those that are available."
Markey also sent letters to test manufacturers requesting information about their costs.
"I am particularly concerned that the cost of at-home rapid COVID-19 antigen tests significantly exceeds their manufacturing cost," the letter said, noting that some test-makers report costs of $2 but sell testing kits for up to $20.
Markey also plans to seek details from pharmacies.
"While the federal government works to increase access to these tests, manufacturers and retailers should sell these critical and necessary tools at cost through the public health emergency," Markey told CBS. "A pandemic is not a time to wring consumers for profit."
NY AG warns:
The letter came after New York Attorney General Letitia James issued an alert warning of potential price gouging.
James’ office said it had received reports that Abbott BinaxNOW tests, which cost $14 to $24, were being “unlawfully” sold for between $40 and $70.
"As New York sees an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases, more and more New Yorkers are looking for at-home tests and other tools in the fight against the coronavirus," James said in a statement. "If New Yorkers see exorbitant price increases on testing kits or other goods vital and necessary for health, safety and welfare, they are encouraged to report it [to] my office immediately. And fraudsters are on notice that if they attempt to price gouge during this new surge, we will not hesitate to take action."
Biden seeks to ramp up access:
The Biden administration this week rolled out a website allowing each American household to request four free tests.
The tests are expected to be delivered by the US Postal Service starting in late January.
The administration has also required private health insurers to reimburse people for up to eight home tests per family member per month.
Critics say the administration’s efforts are not enough to increase test access and argue that the tests should be free at the point of purchase.