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Is Abbott Labs Stock a Screaming Buy Because of Its Game-Changing COVID-19 Test?

By Keith Speights - Mar 31, 2020 at 7:03AM

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Hint: The answer is both yes and no.

One of the biggest problems for healthcare professionals in the coronavirus pandemic has been the lack of tests to determine if patients have been infected by the virus. And even when tests were available to use, the results usually take days to come back. That's about to change -- thanks to Abbott Laboratories (ABT 0.90%).

Abbott won FDA Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) last Friday for a new point-of-care test for novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 that can deliver positive results in as quickly as five minutes and negative results within 13 minutes. The test runs on the company's ID NOW platform that's about the size of a toaster.

It's no exaggeration to say that Abbott's new test could be a game-changer in the fight against COVID-19. But is Abbott Labs stock now a screaming buy as a result of its promising new product?

Abbott Labs sign in front of one of the company's office buildings

Image source: Abbott Labs.

Going viral

Expect Abbott's new COVID-19 test to fly off the shelves. The company's ID NOW platform on which the test runs is already the most widely available molecular point-of-care testing platform in the country. This platform is popular with physicians and scientists because of its high degree of accuracy and its portability.

Now, the ID NOW platform will support the fastest molecular point-of-care test available for diagnosing infection by the novel coronavirus. Abbott is working with the federal government to ship the tests beginning next week with priority to areas where the new tests could have the biggest impact.

But you can bet that healthcare providers all over the country that already have the ID NOW platform in place will be anxious to get Abbott's new COVID-19 test. Providers that don't have ID NOW already, especially those in urgent care settings, will likely be eager to buy Abbott's platform as well.

This isn't Abbott's first effort in diagnosing COVID-19. Just a little over a week ago, the company launched a COVID-19 test that runs on its m2000 RealTime System that's used by hospitals and reference labs. Abbott thinks that it will be able to produce around 5 million tests each month between its two molecular diagnostics platforms.

And there's more

While Abbott's tremendous progress in COVID-19 testing is gaining a lot of attention right now, there's actually a lot more to like about the healthcare stock. Abbott is a leader in multiple areas beyond its coronavirus efforts.

You can put the company's Freestyle Libre continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system near the top of the list. Abbott hopes to soon win FDA clearance for a new version of the product that's already used by many individuals with diabetes to monitor their blood sugar levels. This new version is likely to open the door to an even bigger market opportunity for Freestyle Libre, which chalked up sales of close to $2 billion last year. 

Abbott's Alinity family of lab diagnostics systems is another major growth driver for the company. Alinity boasts strong sales momentum in Europe. Abbott expects a tremendous launch in the U.S. market as well. It won FDA approval for the Alinity blood and plasma screening system last year and is working toward gaining approvals for its immunoassay and clinical chemistry diagnostics.

There are also other products that should fuel Abbott's growth. MitraClip already ranks as the market leader in minimally invasive treatment of a leaky heart valve condition known as mitral regurgitation. The product is gaining even greater market share thanks to a new FDA approval last year. Abbott's HeartMate 3 left ventricular assist device (LVAD) is another big winner in helping heart failure patients recover.

Scream away

So is Abbott Labs stock a screaming buy right now because of its new COVID-19 test? No -- at least, not only because of this test. But I think the stock is a good pick based on all that Abbott has to offer. The company's coronavirus products are just part of a compelling growth story.

Don't overlook Abbott's dividend program, either. The healthcare giant now claims a track record of 48 consecutive years of dividend increases. Abbott's dividend currently yields a little under 2%. 

Abbott Labs' growth prospects already looked great coming into 2020 but now look even better with its launch of a super-fast coronavirus test. With a strong dividend to boot, my view is that Abbott is a stock that just might be worth screaming about.

Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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