One of the best defenses for people at high risk of being admitted with COVID-19 – apart from vaccination – has been treatment with a class of therapies known as monoclonal antibodies. But omicron proved to be resistant to most of these.
Now Eli Lilly & Co. has won emergency use approval for a new monoclonal antibody treatment that promises to be effective not only against omicron, but a wide range of coronavirus variants, company officials said.
Mark Williams, senior medical director of Lilly’s global COVID-19 team, said it is a powerful antibody that the company generally calls neutralizing.
“It seems to work against any known variant of interest or concern that we have tested it with,” Williams said. “We think that’s just what’s needed at the moment with regard to omicron, another tool in the toolbox.”
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Last month the Food and Drug Administration at least temporarily revoked emergency use permit for two treatments, one from Eli Lilly and one from Regeneron, who said they were not effective against omicron. The agency left the door open to bring these treatments back should a new variant emerge that they are successful with.
Lilly’s new second-generation monoclonal antibody, bebtelovimab, fared better than its predecessors when tested against both the original omicron variant and the Ba.2 subvariant, which is 1.5 times more transferable than the already highly transferable omicron variant.
Because this new monoclonal antibody is so potent, only a small dose can be administered through a temporary IV, which takes as little as 30 seconds to infuse. Previous treatments could take more than an hour.
Infusion centers may begin offering the antibody that the government distributes as early as this week to those who are eligible. The treatment is aimed at people with mild or moderate COVID-19 who have not been hospitalized, but who are at high risk of developing serious illness.