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CVS says it is in talks with U.S. to administer…

By Manas Mishra and Carl O’Donnell

Aug 5 – CVS Health Corp raised its full-year profit forecast on Wednesday and said it was in talks with the U.S. government to administer coronavirus vaccines at its pharmacies once they become available.

CVS, which also has a large pharmacy benefit management business and health insurer Aetna, also said it was working with laboratories to cut down turnaround time for coronavirus test results, which had spiked in July due to a massive increase in testing demand.

A shortfall of adequate diagnostic testing has hampered the U.S. response to the pandemic, which has so far infected more than 4 million Americans.

CVS has been operating over 1,800 large-scale drive-through coronavirus testing sites across the United States since April.

Chief Executive Larry Merlo told Reuters CVS was scaling up its use of inexpensive, rapid antigen tests and could boost testing to 2 to 3 million per month at existing sites.

CVS will begin administering flu shots in roughly a month, he said, adding that demand would be higher than usual because of the pandemic.

Merlo said the company could apply the same digital health technology it has used for scheduling coronavirus tests to COVID-19 vaccinations to avoid delays.

CVS beat Wall Street expectations for second-quarter profit, as canceled medical procedures due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to fewer claims at its Aetna health insurance business.

Health insurer Humana Inc also posted better-than-expected quarterly profit.

CVS, however, warned that costs in the health insurance business would increase in the remainder of the year as Americans caught up on delayed procedures and routine medical visits.

The company raised both the high and low end of its full-year profit forecast range by 10 cents and now expects to earn $7.14 to $7.27 per share.

Excluding items, the company earned $2.64 per share, beating analysts’ average estimate by 71 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

CVS’ shares were down 1.3%. (Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Bill Berkrot)

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