Regimens are being provided to individual states free of charge, pending EUA.
The Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus burned itself out almost as quickly as it created record surges in infections, but patients affected by any lingering cases may soon have a welcome solution.
The federal government announced last week that it was purchasing 600,000 treatment courses of a new monoclonal antibody treatment shown to be effective against the new variant. The antibody regimen, known as bebtelovimab, is manufactured by Eli Lilly and Company, and if it receives emergency use authorization (EUA) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will make the treatment available to states free of charge.
“Under President Biden’s leadership, we are prepared for the challenges we face with COVID-19 and are laser-focused on saving lives,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. “We have more COVID-19 treatments than ever before, we are providing a billion free at-home tests, and we have enough vaccines to get everyone vaccinated and boosted. If authorized by FDA, this purchase will add an additional 600,000 courses of treatment to our nation’s ‘medicine cabinet’ that could help prevent severe outcomes for Americans who do get sick with COVID-19. Our top priority is preventing people from getting sick in the first place, which is why it is critical that Americans continue to get vaccinated and get their booster shot as soon as they’re eligible.”
HHS indicated in its announcement that it expects to receive approximately 300,000 treatment courses of the monoclonal antibody by the end of February, and approximately 300,000 more treatment courses in March.
HHS added that early data suggests that the new treatment not only is effective against the Omicron strain, but also the BA.2 Omicron subvariant, which carries the potential for creating a national surge of its own.
“We want to make sure if an American gets sick with COVID-19, they can get a treatment that works,” Becerra said.
Since the start of 2022, HHS has reportedly already provided more than 2.5 million COVID-19 treatments and therapies to states for Americans who get sick with COVID-19 to use, including antiviral pills, monoclonal antibodies, and pre-exposure prophylaxis therapies for people with compromised immune systems. The new contract also includes a future option for 500,000 more doses, and was awarded as a result of collaboration between the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense.
The COVID-19 virus and its variants have reportedly sickened more than 418 million people and killed more than 5.8 million worldwide, including nearly 80 million illnesses and nearly 950,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.