CHICAGO — Ultra-low-cost pregnancy tests seem able to detect human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) at the same low levels as tests costing many times the price.
What's more, their results may be easier to read, according to a sampling of pregnancy test kits purchased from dollar stores throughout the Lehigh Valley, Pa., region by Dr. Sunaina Sehwani and associates at St. Luke's Hospital and Health Network in Bethlehem, Pa.
When 27 dollar store tests were compared with 27 QuickVue pregnancy tests (Quidel Corp.) using urine-purified HCG, all were positive at levels of 25 mIU/mL and above, the standard sensitivity for pregnancy tests used in physicians' offices and clinics, Dr. Sehwani reported at the annual meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Introduced to the commercial market in 1976, home pregnancy kits have declined in price, from an average of $15-$20 in 1999 to $6-$10 now for standard kits.
Earlier-response kits such as First Response or Walgreens' Early Result cost a bit more ($13-$20) and are advertised as sensitive at 6 days post ovulation and 99% accurate at the day after a missed period or 2 weeks post ovulation.
Dr. Sehwani and associates found that dollar pregnancy tests were 100% accurate at 25 mIU/mL of HCG and above, identical to the QuickVue pregnancy test. In fact, two of five that were tested at a lower level of HCG (20 mIU/mL) also were positive.
The dollar kits included in the study were marketed as New Choice, U-Check, and MD Quality, all manufactured by SCI International Inc.
Both the QuickVue and dollar store tests were read for accuracy by two independent observers at 3 and 10 minutes, as directed. They were also assessed for ease of interpretation by five independent observers, four of whom selected the dollar store tests as more visually interpretable.
“The dollar store pregnancy tests appeared able to detect HCG at the same low levels as the QuickVue urine pregnancy test, and also to be easier to read than the more expensive test,” Dr. Sehwani said.
The QuickVue pregnancy tests were donated by the women's health center of St. Luke's Hospital and Health Network for the study. The research team made no other relevant financial disclosures.