White House dismisses DeSantis calls to reverse decision on antibody therapies that don’t work
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Tuesday dismissed criticism from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and other Republicans who are demanding the Biden administration continue to allow states to use a COVID-19 treatment that doesn’t work against the omicron variant.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday said it is limiting the use of two monoclonal antibody therapies from Eli Lilly and Regeneron because they are ineffective at treating the omicron variant. As a result, Florida health officials closed the state’s antibody treatment centers.
DeSantis was quick to blast the move, saying in a statement that Biden “has forced trained medical professionals to choose between treating their patients or breaking the law.”
“There are real-world implications to Biden’s medical authoritarianism — Americans’ access to treatments is now subject to the whims of a failing president,” he added.
DeSantis has been one of the most outspoken proponents of antibody treatments, especially the cocktail from Regeneron that was given to former President Trump.
The treatments were highly effective at keeping out of the hospital people who were infected with the original strain of the coronavirus, as well as the delta variant, but studies in labs have shown they do not work against omicron. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 99 percent of infections nationwide are now from omicron.
Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Ian Sams noted DeSantis has not been nearly as big a proponent of booster shots, and has refused to disclose whether he received one. New evidence from the CDC shows booster shots are 90 percent effective at reducing severe disease and hospitalization from omicron.
The FDA’s decision was also supported by both manufacturers, which said they are working on new treatments that work against all known variants.
“Let’s just take a step back to realize how crazy this is,” Psaki said when asked for a response to DeSantis. “We know what works, vaccines and boosters.”
Psaki told reporters that the FDA has made it clear the treatments “do not work against omicron and they have side effects.” She also noted the Biden administration has sent Florida other treatments that have proved to be successful against omicron.
The antibody treatment now most recommended is sotrovimab, from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology. The administration will also continue to allocate doses of Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid, as well as one made by Merck called molnupiravir. However, both Paxlovid and sotrovimab are in short supply.
The FDA also did not revoke the emergency authorization for the two treatments in dispute, and said the drugs would be used in the future if needed.
“We have sent them to — 71,000 doses of treatments that are effective against omicron and are effective also against delta. And they are still advocating for treatments that don’t work,” Psaki said
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