New COVID-19 antibody drug OK to protect the most vulnerable – Community News
Covid-19

New COVID-19 antibody drug OK to protect the most vulnerable

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal health officials on Wednesday approved a new COVID-19 antibody drug for people with serious health conditions or allergies who cannot receive adequate protection from vaccination.

Antibody drugs have been a standard of care for the treatment of COVID-19 infections for more than a year. But the AstraZeneca antibody drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration is different. It is the first intended for long-term prevention against COVID-19 infection, rather than a short-term treatment.

People who may benefit from the antibody drug include cancer patients, organ transplant recipients, and people taking immune-suppressing drugs for conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Health experts estimate that about 2% to 3% of the U.S. population falls into that group.

“These people still need to take shelter in place because they are at a very high risk of serious illness and death,” said Dr. David Boulware of the University of Minnesota, prior to the announcement. “So with this therapy, many of them will go back to their normal lives.”

Specifically, the FDA has approved the AstraZeneca drug, called Evusheld, for adults and children ages 12 and older whose immune systems have not responded adequately to COVID-19 vaccines or have a history of severe allergic reactions to the injections. Regulators said the required two antibody injections could be effective in preventing COVID-19 infections for six months.

Like similar drugs, AstraZeneca provides lab-made versions of human antibody proteins, which help the immune system fight off viruses and other infections.

The FDA and other health authorities have emphasized that antibody drugs are not a substitute for vaccines, which are the most effective, long-lasting and economical form of virus protection. Antibody drugs are tricky to manufacture and often cost more than $1,000 per dose compared to vaccines that typically cost less than $30 per injection.

The FDA has approved three other antibody therapies from Regeneron, Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline, with the US government purchasing hundreds of thousands of doses. They all need a drip or injection. They are used to treat people with recent infections who are most at risk of developing severe COVID-19 due to other health conditions. Two can be used to prevent infection after a possible exposure to the coronavirus.

AstraZeneca’s drug would be used differently — only as a long-term preventative measure in people who have an increased vulnerability to the virus.

In a company study, people who received Evusheld had a 77% lower risk of infection than people who received a dummy shot over six months, the FDA said.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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