Eli Lilly’s Antibody Treatment Gets Emergency F.D.A. Approval
The authorization raised immediate questions about who would get access to the antibody treatments, which are in short supply.
The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency authorization of a Covid-19 antibody treatment made by Eli Lilly that is similar to a therapy given to President Trump shortly after he contracted the coronavirus.
The decision, announced on Monday by the agency, is likely to be seen as a valuable tool to treat patients with Covid-19 at a time when the pandemic is raging across the United States, hospitals are overwhelmed and doctors have few options to treat the disease.
Eli Lilly said that its treatment, called bamlanivimab, should be administered as soon as possible after a positive coronavirus test, and within 10 days of developing symptoms. The authorization applies only to people newly infected with the virus, and the agency said it should not be used in hospitalized patients. It is authorized for people who are 12 and older and at risk for developing a severe form of Covid-19 or being hospitalized for the condition. The F.D.A. said that included people who were over 65 and obese — a key group that early studies have shown can benefit the most from the treatment.
“It’s a great day for science and medicine — sort of a feat of what’s possible,” said Dr. Daniel M. Skovronsky, the chief scientific officer of Eli Lilly. The company and its collaborators, including the National Institutes of Health, he said, were able “to create a new drug, manufacture it, test it in clinical trials, and get it authorized for use in just seven months.”
In October, the company announced that it had reached a $375 million deal to sell 300,000 doses of the treatment to the U.S. government.
The emergency authorization for Eli Lilly raised immediate questions about who would get access to the treatment at a time when emergency authorizations for coronavirus vaccines might still be weeks or months away. The news came on the same day that Pfizer announced positive early results from its coronavirus vaccine trial. That vaccine might get emergency authorization sometime this year, but even then it would not be available to most Americans until well into 2021.
In a statement on Monday, Alex M. Azar II, the health secretary and a former executive at Eli Lilly, said the F.D.A.’s emergency authorization for bamlanivimab was a “step forward” in “bridging us to the rollout of safe and effective vaccines.”
Eli Lilly has said that it expects to have enough doses to treat up to one million people by the end of the year, and that it will be able to significantly increase production thereafter. But that means that even in the best-case scenario, there won’t initially be enough to curb a virus that is now infecting more than 110,000 people a day in the United States.