Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis continued to push Wednesday for coronavirus patients to receive monoclonal antibody treatments that were pulled by the federal government after they were deemed ineffective against the omicron variant.
DeSantis held a news conference at Miami Dade College's North Campus Wednesday with Florida Department of Health Deputy Secretary Dr. Kenneth Scheppke and other medical experts to decry what he called a "rash decision" by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which pulled its emergency authorization for the antibody drugs from Regeneron and Eli Lilly on Monday.
Both drugmakers had said that the treatments are less able to target omicron because of its mutations. In updated drug labeling released Monday, the FDA said omicron appears 1,000-fold less vulnerable to Regeneron’s drug and nearly 3,000-fold less vulnerable to Lilly’s drug.
DeSantis said that while omicron has become the dominant variant in Florida, the drugs could still be used to treat delta cases.
The Republican governor also referenced anecdotal cases in which people were helped by the monoclonal antibody treatments and said the state has had to cancel thousands of treatment appointments in the past couple days following the FDA's decision.
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Tuesday that the U.S. government has halted shipments of the two antibodies. She added that the federal government continues to distribute a GlaxoSmithKline antibody and two antiviral pills that are effective against omicron. However, supplies of those drugs are limited.
“The Administration is focused on making sure that, if an American gets sick with COVID-19, they get a treatment that actually works,” HHS’ Kirsten Allen said in a statement.
Hours after the FDA announced its decision Monday, the Florida Department of Health said it would shutter all monoclonal antibody state sites until further notice.
DeSantis said he'd like to reopen the sites if the state could get more of the authorized treatements.
Federal officials said the FDA decision was supported by several independent studies, including a peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Nature last month. In that study, a consortium of European researchers tested the ability of several antibody drugs to neutralize a live sample of the virus, concluding that Lilly and Regeneron’s antibodies “were inactive against omicron.”
The American Medical Association, the nation’s largest physician group, said it agreed with the FDA decision, issuing a statement that read: “Limiting the use of these treatments will help ensure patients receive the best available therapy.”
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