Story at a glance
- Two well used COVID-19 antibody treatments have been found to not work as effectively in diffusing the new omicron variant.
- That only leaves GlaxoSmithKline’s sotrovimab monoclonal antibody treatment, which has been proven to fight off omicron.
- The federal government is in discussion with GSK to secure more doses of sotrovimab that can be distributed quickly around the country.
As the omicron variant became the dominant strain in the U.S. this week, health care providers are left with fewer options to treat positive COVID-19 patients as most of the existing treatments have been found to be less effective in fighting off the new variant.
Up until recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had been distributing three types of COVID-19 antibody treatments, Regeneron monoclonal antibodies, Eli Lilly’s antibody treatments and GlaxoSmithKline’s sotrovimab monoclonal antibody.
Regeneron gained national attention when former President Trump contracted COVID-19 and was treated with Regeneron under a “compassionate use program” that allowed rare, exceptional circumstances to use the treatment.
However, as omicron emerged and scientists around the world scrambled to understand how current vaccines and available therapies could fight the new variant, Regeneron and Eli Lilly both announced their antibody treatments didn’t work as effectively in diffusing omicron.
On Dec. 16, Regeneron announced its antibody treatment had “diminished potency against omicron.”
In a statement to a local Fox News station, Eli Lilly confirmed that its antibody treatments showed “reduced neutralization activity,” against omicron.
That leaves one COVID-19 treatment available to treat omicron infections, and in early December, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) announced that its sotrovimab monoclonal antibody “retains in vitro activity against the full known omicron spike protein.” Meaning that GSK’s treatment could fight against all tested variants of COVID-19. It gained emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in May this year.
George Scangos, CEO of Vir, the company partnering with GSK to develop sotrovimab, told The New York Times that when developing their antibody treatment they looked at the blood of people who had survived the 2003 SARS epidemic, instead of those who survived COVID-19 infections. Through this method, they identified an antibody from SARS that could also protect against the coronavirus that caused COVID-19.
“I think we got here not by good luck, but by a thoughtful process,” said Scangos.
However, currently health care providers are left with slimmer treatment options, as HHS data indicates that as of Dec. 17 the government had stopped distribution of Regeneron and Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 treatments and had only shipped 55,000 GSK treatments. Since mid-September, the HHS had shipped 1.2 million doses of Regeneron to states and around 670,000 doses of Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment.
According to the Times, hospitals in New York have recently said they would also stop giving patients the two most commonly used antibody treatments, made by Regeneron and Eli Lilly.
Ralph Madeb, New York Community Hospital’s co-chief medical officer said, “if I had a choice I would give GSK.”
Supply of GSK’s sotrovimab monoclonal antibody is currently limited, but the White House is in discussions with the pharmaceutical company to secure more doses that could be delivered early next year, according to the Times.
Along with sotrovimab, federal regulators are expected to authorize antiviral pills from pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Merck, which would add to health care providers’ toolbelt of treatment options for COVID-19 patients.
BREAKING NEWS ON THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC