Powerful drugs recently authorized by the FDA are expected to help patients suffering from the earliest stages of COVID-19 avoid the most severe symptoms. President Donald Trump even once referred to Regeneron’s antibody treatment as a “cure” for the virus.
But there are still some issues that have yet to be resolved.
The US, like several other developed nations, has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to secure supplies of Eli Lilly and supplies of the Regeneron.
Officials are working to establish sites to infuse the medications to patients with mild to moderate disease who had until recently been advised to stay home.
Both the Eli Lilly and Regeneron monoclonal antibodies mimic proteins the body normally makes to block the virus from entering cells; they were cleared by the FDA earlier this month. They’re the first drugs authorized specifically for non-hospitalized patients, and are targeted at those at risk of severe symptoms because of older age, obesity and other chronic conditions.
Experts told Bloomberg that while Trump touted Regeneron’s therapy after receiving it in October, infectious disease doctors noted that the evidence supporting the drugs’ use in Covid-19 is not yet definitive. Yet there’s hope they could help the country battle its worst-ever coronavirus surge, as average daily infections soared to almost 170,000 over the last week. About 90,500 Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19 as of Thursday.
Coronavirus-beset hospitals around the US are grappling with more infected staff, said Allison Suttle, chief medical officer at Sanford Health, a nonprofit health system based in South Dakota. Treatment that keeps patients from being admitted to overcrowded hospital wards is offering a tantalizing reprieve, she said.
The US has paid Eli Lilly $375 million to lock in supplies of its antibody medication – the amusingly-named “bamlanivimav”, equivalent to 300,000 vials of the antibody, bamlanivimab, over the next two months. The government has also awarded Regeneron $450 million to make and supply enough doses of its antibody cocktail for another 300,000 patients through the end of January. Both companies intend to scale up supply for the U.S. next year.