Healthcare

Biden administration purchases 600k doses of new COVID-19 antibody drug

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The Biden administration on Thursday said it purchased 600,000 treatments worth of a new COVID-19 antibody drug that officials said works against the omicron variant.

The drug from Eli Lilly has not yet been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. But the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said if the authorization occurs, the treatment will be made available to states immediately, free of charge.

“We want to make sure if an American gets sick with COVID-19, they can get a treatment that works,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.

Under the contract, HHS said it would receive approximately 300,000 treatment courses of the monoclonal antibody in February and about another 300,000 treatment courses in March. They would be ready to ship immediately following authorization.

The contract also includes a future option for 500,000 more doses. 

According to HHS, early data suggests that the new antibody drug is effective against both omicron and the BA.2 omicron subvariant, which would be helpful in case infections from the subvariant continue to rise. 

The announcement comes after the Food and Drug Administration last month significantly restricted the use of a pair of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 because they are ineffective against the omicron variant.

The agency said the therapies made by Eli Lilly and Regeneron should only be used in patients that have been infected with or exposed to a variant that is susceptible to the treatments.  

The two medications had essentially been the primary standard of treatment for vulnerable people exposed to or infected with COVID-19, but they are not a substitute for vaccination. 

The omicron variant began spreading across the U.S. in late November, and now accounts for more than 99 percent of infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

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.

Tags Coronavirus FDA HHS Monoclonal antibodies Xavier Becerra

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