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FDA okays antibody medicine said to cut COVID hospitalizations and deaths by 70%

US company Eli Lilly says 100,000 doses of its monoclonal treatment ‘ready immediately’ for distribution to high-risk patients aged 12 and older

The Eli Lilly corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, July 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)
The Eli Lilly corporate headquarters in Indianapolis, July 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy, File)

The US Food and Drug Administration granted authorization to pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment against COVID-19 on Wednesday, paving the way for the drug to be rolled out across the US.

The combination of two synthetic antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, reduced hospitalizations and deaths by 70 percent in high-risk patients with recent positive coronavirus tests, data released by the company last month showed.

Eli Lilly said Wednesday that with the FDA authorization, it was ready to begin distribution of the medicine.

“There are 100,000 doses ready immediately and an additional 150,000 doses will be available throughout the first quarter,” the company said in a statement, confirming that the treatment has been allowed for use in “mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients aged 12 and older who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.”

The treatment is based on the use of monoclonal antibodies, lab-made versions of the body’s natural infection-fighting defenses.

Many scientists have welcomed their COVD-fighting potential, and both Eli Lilly and biotech firm Regeneron have received emergency use authorizations for their treatments.

But their uptake has been limited in the US by several factors, from a lack of patient interest to not enough staffing and logistical capacity by hospitals to administer them.

As a result, the company said it was working with the FDA to potentially reduce the infusion time from the current 60 minutes to as little as 16 minutes.

AFP contributed to this report.

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