AnyPlace MD has filed a lawsuit that seeks damages for over 100,000 COVID-19 tests that were imported from China by Anhui DeepBlue Medical Technology.
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When America’s frontline medical workers were desperate for vital surgical gear early in the COVID-19 pandemic, a Texas-based mobile health company paid nearly $500,000 for 100,000 antibody test kits from China, which was the only place providing these much-needed supplies at the time.
However, the kits, which were supposed to be used to fill orders from the US military and their state customers, never made it past the company’s warehouse, where they were delivered before July 2020, after months of delays following a product test by the importer that revealed a concerning number of the tests were defective.
AnyPlace MD has filed a lawsuit against the China-based supplier in the hopes of recovering their money.
Stevens was obliged to pay Anhui DeepBlue Medical Technology, the Chinese test kit provider, a 75 percent down payment totaling $481,125 in May 2020, with the balance $118,875 due in a month. After receiving the tests, Stevens claimed he quickly discovered that a substantial proportion of the kits showed false positive findings or “ghost lines”—lines that are difficult to interpret and “appear to indicate a positive test”—during a sample inspection of the items.
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DeepBlue, along with four other China-based COVID-19 test manufacturers, were flagged by the US regulator as “should not be distributed,” according to a screenshot taken from the FDA’s website in an early July 2020 email exchange with a joint venture partner, Reliant Immune Diagnostics, a second plaintiff in the lawsuit.
AnyPlace isn’t the only one who has expressed dissatisfaction with the China-based provider. According to local media reports from April 2020, US Department of Homeland Security inspectors seized 20,000 DeepBlue test kits in Laredo City after health department officials assessed that the tests had only a 20% accuracy rate.
Defective medical equipment from China, such as masks and testing kits, had already sparked outrage in nations including Finland, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, resulting in millions of products being recalled. In August 2020, Sweden disclosed that 3,700 people in the country had been falsely diagnosed with the virus due to faulty testing kits made in China.
Stevens requested a return from Rallo Holdings, the company that negotiated the agreement with DeepBlue. He’d spend the next few months attempting to recoup the approximately $500,000 owed to him.
When he finally spoke with Li Zeyu, a DeepBlue representative, in September 2020, Li apologized for the refund delays, saying that the company was working to secure sales for the products in Mexico or other South American countries so that there “will be not lost or just a small lost [sic.”
“Why are you guys trying to sell these tests to anyone else?” Stevens replied, “They are not good. Ghost [lines], false positives … They are not good tests.”
AnyPlace’s assertions concerning the test results “were not correct,” Li responded, adding that the company had only agreed to the refund because of the FDA delisting.
“[B]y the way. deep blue sold about 10 million test kits total. we got bad result and refund less than 50k total…. So we don’t think there is a big problem in our products,” Li told Stevens on the Chinese messaging network WeChat.
The FDA told The Epoch Times in an email that it “intends to remove tests for which FDA has either issued an EUA or has notified the test developer by email that FDA declines to review, declines to issue, or otherwise decides not to authorize the test for any reason,” while not providing specific comments on the imported products from Anhui DeepBlue Medical Technology.
The FDA had previously cautioned that some test makers were “falsely claiming that their serological tests are FDA approved or authorized, or falsely claiming that they can diagnose COVID-19” in an April 2020 notice.
“The FDA will take appropriate action against firms making false claims or marketing tests that are not accurate and reliable,” it said.
Plaintiffs claimed in the case that they were misled into believing that an FDA certificate document shared by the defendants, which was issued to indicate an antibody test registration with the FDA, would lead to the product’s FDA clearance.
The advance payment provided by AnyPlace accounted for half of the company’s financial reserves.
“It hurt us badly,” Stevens said. “We had to stop buying COVID tests in the volumes that we were doing for quite some time while we recovered and recouped.”
He described the lawsuit (pdf below) as his “last resort,” and he is “very hopeful” that it will succeed.
“If you ask other folks who have tried to deal with companies in China, they might say that it’s a low probability. But a lot of times, I just have to do what I think is right. And in the back of my head, I’m thinking, what if some other company doesn’t have the resources? What if some other companies put everything on the line to try and buy something from them? That would have bankrupted that company,” he said.
“It’s dangerous having companies out there that are like this … So I feel it’s an obligation for me to do it, regardless of the outcome.”
Read the lawsuit below: