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Abbott’s sales fall in fourth quarter, as people buy fewer COVID-19 tests

by staff

Abbott Laboratories saw its sales rise in 2022, but had a rougher fourth quarter as people bought fewer COVID-19 tests and the company grappled with continued fallout from a recall of its powdered infant formulas.

Abbott, which is based in the north suburbs and makes medical devices, tests and formula, had sales of $43.7 billion in 2022, up 6.4% compared with the previous year, the company said in an earnings report released Wednesday morning.

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For the fourth quarter, however, sales were $10.1 billion, down 6.1% from the fourth quarter of the prior year, following a decrease in the number of COVID-19 tests sold. Abbott makes the popular BinaxNOW at-home COVID-19 test, as well as several others. Abbott has sold nearly 3 billion COVID-19 tests worldwide since the pandemic began, said Robert Ford, Abbott chair and CEO, in an earnings call Wednesday.

Abbott said the decline in COVID-19 test sales was not unexpected.

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“Going forward we expect COVID-19 to transition to more of an endemic, seasonal type of respiratory virus and, with that, COVID testing, while still important, is expected to decline significantly,” Ford said.

Sales of Abbott’s nutritional products also declined by about 6% in 2022 and the fourth quarter, following a pause in the manufacturing of infant formula at the company’s Sturgis, Michigan, plant last year. Abbott temporarily closed the facility last year and recalled formulas produced there, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it was investigating complaints of Cronobacter sakazakii infections among babies who reportedly consumed formula from the plant.

Abbott has faced scathing criticism from members of Congress, consumer advocates and others for conditions found at the plant, though the FDA has said that “despite extensive investigation the evidence does not rule in or rule out a definitive link between these infant deaths and the product produced at Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis plant.”

Abbott leaders have apologized for the company’s role in what became a national shortage of infant formula.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into conduct at the plant.

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