Why Are Covid Antibody Drugs Sitting on Shelves?


Why Are Covid Antibody Drugs Sitting on Shelves?

Published date

December 20, 2020

The Friday approval of a second Covid vaccine is welcome news, but much of the public won’t be able to get inoculated for many months. Meanwhile, the best way to reduce suffering and hardship is therapeutic technologies like antibody drugs. But right now, many of these drugs are languishing on shelves at hospitals and not reaching patients.

Moncef Slaoui, who runs Operation Warp Speed, said recently that more than 80% of the available supply is sitting unused, even as hospitals are inundated with critically ill patients. Antibody drugs infuse patients with synthetic versions of the kinds of immune cells developed in response to an infection. Early trials show antibody cocktails can stop Covid symptoms from progressing. They can be used with or without vaccines for patients at highest risk of severe disease.

The supply is limited. The two companies with authorized versions, Eli Lily and Regeneron, will ship a little more than one million doses by the end of the year. Evidence suggests that for every 10 high-risk patients treated, one hospitalization might be avoided. That may sound modest, but it adds up: a million doses administered could translate into 100,000 fewer hospitalizations. Such a reprieve would help hospitals keep up with the current surge.

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Duke-Margolis Affiliated Authors

Mark McClellan

Mark McClellan, MD, PhD

Director of Margolis Center
Robert J. Margolis, MD, Professor of Business, Medicine and Policy
Margolis Executive Core Faculty