US government halts distribution of Lilly COVID-19 drug due to spread of variants

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The US government has stopped distribution of Eli Lilly and Co’s COVID-19 antibody therapy, bamlanivimab, due to the impact of rapidly spreading coronavirus variants on the drug’s efficacy.

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The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Wednesday it stopped distribution of the therapy due to a sustained increase in SARS-CoV-2 viral variants in the United States that are resistant to bamlanivimab when administered alone.

“We recognize the US government has made the decision to no longer allow direct ordering of bamlanivimab alone due to concerns about the prevalence of the California B.1.427/B.1.429 and New York B.1.526 variants of SARS-CoV-2,” Lilly said in an email to Reuters.

All treatment delivery sites will continue to be able to order Lilly’s combination therapy of two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, and a two-antibody cocktail developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc, the US Food and Drug Administration said.

“We believe that sites with access to bamlanivimab and etesevimab for administration together should use that therapy over bamlanivimab alone,” Lilly said on Thursday.

HHS earlier this month said it would limit distribution of Lilly’s COVID-19 therapy in three states over concerns regarding the impact of a new variant on its effectiveness.

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