Available but ineffective antibody treatment still in use in some states

The monoclonal antibody therapies made by Regeneron and Eli Lilly, which the omicron coronavirus variant has essentially rendered useless, are still in high use in 12 states, Kaiser Health News reported Jan. 21. 

Antibody therapies in general have been found to be highly effective at preventing high-risk patients from being hospitalized, though federal health officials and Regeneron itself have said the treatments aren't as effective against omicron, which accounted for 99.5 percent of new U.S. cases for the week ending Jan. 15, CDC data shows. 

Unless providers are certain they're treating patients infected with the delta strain, they shouldn't use the treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly, experts told KHN. For most U.S. physicians, determining which variant a patient is infected with is difficult, as few clinics nationwide are using laboratory screening capable of determining whether a patient is infected with delta or omicron.  Sotrovimab, made by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, is the only monoclonal antibody treatment that has performed well against omicron in lab experiments, though its supply is still extremely limited. The National Institutes of Health also now recommends sotrovimab as the primary monoclonal treatment. 

"There's not a medical justification based on the evidence on the Regeneron and Lilly Products," said Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, director of the Margolis Center for Health Policy at Durham, N.C.-based Duke University. Dr. McClellan is also a former FDA commissioner and CMS administrator. 

Still, federal data shows the treatments from Regeneron and Eli Lilly are still in high use across a dozen states. Michigan, Florida, Indiana, Missouri, Louisiana, California, Oklahoma, Kansas, Georgia, Ohio, New York and Mississippi used the most courses of the treatments, respectively, from Jan. 5 to Jan. 18, according to KHN's analysis of HHS data

Nationwide, U.S. hospitals used about 72,000 doses of the two antibody therapies across the same time period. Hospitals had about 295,000 doses of the treatments on hand as of Jan. 19.  Meanwhile, federal data on hospital-level use of sotrovimab, which became available more recently, is not yet available. The government is distributing more than 50,000 courses of sotrovimab per week, and the Biden administration has agreed to buy about 1 million doses, with 600,000 promised by March, officials with GlaxoSmithKline said

Last month, HHS temporarily paused distribution of Eli Lilly and Regeneron's antibody drugs, but has since resumed the shipments at the urging of some physicians and politicians who said the therapies could still help in communities where delta is persistent. 

To read the full report, click here.


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