A local company called TestMe2 is charging $150 a pop for coronavirus antibody tests that have been rejected by the FDA, and not returning results for a month or longer, among many other red flags.
It’s good to be skeptical of the coronavirus testing cottage industry, as it was basically created overnight, and with standards developed on the fly. Consider the case of that free pop-up COVID-19 testing site for protesters we reported last week. I signed up, and the first thing the website did was ask from my Gmail password. I’m not comfortable giving my Gmail password to third-party websites! But it turns out the signup site Project Baseline is run by Verily, which is Google’s life sciences subsidiary, so I was calmed enough to enter the password. But even Verily is getting scammed, or at least having its name and credentials used without consent, by a drive-through COVID-19 antibody testing site San Jose.
A pretty fascinating Dan Noyes I-Team report on KGO calls the highly questionable coronavirus antibody testing site “unsettling,” and that's putting it kindly. Noyes started sniffing around when he heard complaints that the company called TestMe2 was promising results in 2-3 days, but some patients weren’t getting their results in more than a month. Digging in, he unspools a story of bogus credentials, bribe charges, and criminal securities fraud that would make Elizabeth Holmes lower her voice in awe.
While the testing is described as covered by “any insurance provider,” the site adds that “Private Pay is $151 per patient.”
So Dan Noyes visits the drive-through testing site, and finds patients complaining they hadn’t received their results in “over a week.” But he does find the company’s owner Vincent Thayer a self-described “serial entrepreneur” (which always means “white man born into wealth”) whose Twitter shows he’s a pretty big Trumper. He also finds the company’s “chief innovation officer” Ryan Hendrickson, whose LinkedIn describes him as a “Telemedice Expert." [sic] Further, the company’s medical director is currently indicted on “federal charges of conspiring to receive kickbacks for referring patients to a home healthcare agency.” Another of the site doctors, Dr. Adam Gratz, listed himself on LinkedIn as a Verily Life Sciences “Site Medical Lead,” but a Verily spokesperson told KGO, “Verily does not work with TestMe2 at all, and they shouldn't be making comments about Verily's program or Adam's role in the program."
The gang would not name the type of testing kits they use, but Dan Noyes dug in and found the kits were produced by a Sunnyvale-based company called Arayit, whose stock has been delisted. What Dan Noyes did not realize was that just as his KGO report was published, the Washington Post broke the story that Justice Department had charged Arayit with charged securities fraud and conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud over that very exact testing kit.
The Justice Department complaint says Arayit’s president “used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to expand the pre-existing allergy test scheme and to capitalize on a national emergency for his own financial gain,” and made fraudulent claims to investors while at the same time “soliciting investors to help Arrayit cover its rent.”
It was inevitable that some COVID-19 antibody tests would be bogus, as they were developed so quickly, and FDA tightened its regulations on them in May as fraudulent test kits were common. Hucksters are clearly trying to cash in on coronavirus, so it’s probably a good idea to Google any product or medical professional you consult for COVID-19.
Image: hikendal via Unsplash