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Eli Lilly says antibody therapy prevented COVID-19 in nursing homes

Eli Lilly says antibody therapy prevented COVID-19 in nursing homes
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Eli Lilly on Thursday said its antibody COVID-19 treatment significantly reduced the risk of nursing home residents and staff contracting symptomatic COVID-19 in a clinical trial.

The company announced the results of its trial in a press release, but said they will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed clinical journal.

The antibody infusion treatment was authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in November for use in high-risk patients with mild to moderate disease who haven’t been hospitalized. 

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The treatment has been shown to reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization, but the announcement indicates the drug may also be able to prevent disease in certain circumstances.

"These data strengthen our conviction that monoclonal antibodies such as bamlanivimab can play a critical role in turning the tide of this pandemic," said Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly's chief scientific officer, who added the company is interested in working with the FDA to "explore expanding the emergency use authorization" to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

More than 400,000 people in the U.S. have died from the disease, and almost a quarter of all deaths have been in long-term care facilities.

The clinical trial was conducted in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The trial began over the summer, and tested whether the treatment, bamlanivimab, would slow the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities where the virus had already been detected. 

There were 965 participants (299 residents and 666 staff) included in the prevention group because they tested negative, while 132 participants (41 residents and 91 staff) who tested positive for the virus were included to assess treatment.

After eight weeks, participants who received the drug were less likely to develop COVID-19 than those who received a placebo, according to the statement.

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Among the 299 nursing home residents, the treatment reduced symptomatic COVID-19 cases by 80 percent compared to a placebo, the company said. 

There were four deaths attributed to COVID-19, and all occurred in the placebo group. There were no COVID-19 attributed deaths in the antibody therapy arm.

The federal government has purchased large amounts of the monoclonal antibodies both Lilly and Regeneron, but usage has been sporadic at best and drugs are sitting on shelves unused. Administering the treatment is not easy, especially while the virus is raging, and there's a very narrow window when the drugs are effective. 

Former Trump administration health officials had been urging doctors to prescribe the treatments more frequently, and for patients to seek them out.