The U.S. government has paused distribution of Covid-19 monoclonal antibody treatments made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly, saying those treatments are probably ineffective against the omicron variant, while some hospitals struggle with limited supply of GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology’s more effective treatment.
Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced it would pause distribution of Regeneron’s REGEN-COV treatment and Eli Lilly’s bamlanivimab and etesevimab treatment.
Regeneron and Eli Lilly’s treatments, while effective against previous coronavirus variants, are likely not effective against omicron, whereas GlaxoSmithKline’s sotrovimab treatment appears to still be effective, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration fact sheets updated Thursday.
The pause on Regeneron and Eli Lilly’s treatments will continue until new data on their effectiveness is received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HHS said.
Use of these treatments may still be appropriate in places where omicron is less common and there is a limited supply of alternative treatment options, HHS said.
Mutations in the spike proteins of coronavirus particles have prevented Regeneron and Eli Lilly’s antibodies from attaching to them, whereas the area of the protein targeted by GlaxoSmithKline’s sotrovimab remains unaffected by omicron’s mutations, Prevention reported.
When effective, monoclonal antibody treatments can prevent serious illness or hospitalization among high-risk coronavirus patients. However, Tuesday, some New York area hospitals reported they had run out of sotrovimab just as the omicron variant was establishing its dominance in the U.S. Delivery of 55,000 doses of sotrovimab began earlier in the week, with an additional 300,000 doses expected to be available by January 3, according to an HHS release. The most recent shipment of sotrovimab was distributed to the U.S. states and territories according to factors including infection and hospitalization rates, with allocations ranging from just 66 doses for Alaska to 4,242 for New York.
Delivered through an IV needle, monoclonal antibodies are lab-grown antibodies that help reinforce the body’s natural immune system as it develops its own antibodies to the virus. However, the treatment doesn’t replace a need for vaccination, HHS said.