NIH halts study of Eli Lilly antibody drug for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients

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Federal researchers have ended a study into the effectiveness of Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients due to a lack of effectiveness.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is funding the study, announced late Monday that an independent monitoring board found little clinical benefit in the treatment and recommended that it be stopped.

The study had been paused earlier this month due to a potential safety issue, but the NIAID said the monitoring board’s decision was driven by lack of clinical benefit.

The study was designed to evaluate Eli Lilly’s neutralizing antibody as a treatment for COVID-19 in hospitalized patients in combination with the antiviral drug remdesivir. It was being tested against a combination of remdesivir and a placebo. 

The agency said the larger trial will continue to study other experimental therapies compared to placebos in adults hospitalized with COVID-19. 

Eli Lilly said it will also continue testing its antibody drug in patients with mild to moderate cases, in people recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and as a way to prevent COVID-19 in residents and staff at long-term care facilities.  

The decision to end the study is not likely to impact the Food and Drug Administration’s review of Eli Lilly’s application for an emergency use authorization of the antibody drug, which was based on evidence it improved the condition of recently diagnosed high-risk patients with mild to moderate COVID-19.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-generated versions of one of the human body’s main defenses against pathogens.

AstraZeneca and Regeneron, among other companies, are also working on antibody treatments.

The use of antibodies to treat COVID-19 made headlines recently after President Trump said he received an antibody cocktail from Regeneron and touted it as a “miracle” and a “cure.” 

Trump ally and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) also said he was treated with Eli Lilly’s antibody drug, along with remdesivir.

Christie was among over 30 people who contracted COVID-19 after attending Trump’s Sept. 26 White House announcement of his Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

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