US approves more drugs to treat Covid-19

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on February 12 urgently approved Eli Lily’s new monoclonal antibody drug to treat people with Covid-19.

The drug, bebtelovimab, is effective on the Omicron strain. The administration of President Joe Biden has said the drug will be made available immediately, at no cost to the states. Thus, the US currently has 4 drugs available to treat Covid-19 patients at high risk of severe disease in the early stages.

Bebtelovimab has not been tested in critically ill patients. As such, the FDA says it should only be an alternative treatment, when no other, more accessible, or clinically relevant alternatives are available. Health officials give similar indications for Merk’s molnupiravir and Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine.

However, the data shows that bebtelovimab is safe and can reduce the amount of virus that accumulates in people with Covid-19. Like other drugs, Eli Lily’s new drug is intended for people who are easily overweight due to age or underlying medical conditions such as obesity and diabetes. People under 12 years of age can also use bebtelovimab.

Eli Lily’s Covid-19 antibody drug test site, February 2021. Photo: Reuters

The drug is administered intravenously. Patients in clinics, hospitals or medical facilities receive drugs. Bebtelovimab should be taken within 7 days of symptom onset.

Although the US now has more drugs to treat Covid-19 than at any time during the pandemic, they are still so scarce that doctors are forced to select patients to give them.

Representative Eli Lilly said on December 10 that he had signed a contract with the US Department of Health and Human Services to provide 600,000 treatments, worth 720 million USD, to the government. The company says it has produced hundreds of thousands of doses of the drug, ready to ship within 24 hours.

Thuc Linh (Follow NY Times)


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