The emphasis on vaccination ignores the fact that there are hundreds of other treatment options for Covid-19. For example, a study just showed that monoclonal antibodies can protect against infection and may be an alternative to vaccines in some cases.
The monoclonal antibodies used to treat Donald Trump in October 2020 are now being used as a curative treatment for covid-19. On Nov. 24, the FDA granted emergency approval for an antibody cocktail (Casirivimab and Imdevimab) from Regeneron for mild to moderate forms of covid-19. Bamlanivimab, developed by Eli Lilly, was also approved last November.
80% fewer infections
The lab said today that Bamlanivimab, developed in collaboration with Canadian biotechnology company AbCellera, works not only in people who already have the disease but also as a preventive agent to prevent infections in healthy people. Eli Lilly conducted a clinical trial with 1,097 participants who were exposed to high-risk situations, such as the elderly or healthcare professionals. According to their findings, the drug reduced symptomatic infections by 57% and by as much as 80% in nursing homes.
This study confirms another conducted by University College London Hospitals NHS Trust (UCLH) and AstraZeneca, which also shows that antibodies can confer immediate and long-term immunity (between 6 and 12 months). Their drug, called AZD7442 which is administered in two doses like the vaccine, could be available as early as March or April, according to The Guardian.
An emergency option for people exposed to the virus
The advantage of this treatment is that you don’t have to wait for your body to produce antibodies, says Catherine Houlihan, a virologist at UCLH. This is of particular interest to people who have been exposed to the virus for less than eight days and for whom it is too late to administer a vaccine. It takes three to four weeks for Pfizer or Modern vaccines to provide adequate protection. This type of treatment could significantly reduce mortality in high-risk areas, says Paul Hunter, a physician at the University of East Anglia. For example, if you have a cluster in a nursing home, you could administer antibodies to all residents and staff who are not vaccinated. Monoclonal antibodies can also be used in immunocompromised individuals who may have an inadequate response to the vaccine.
Monoclonal antibodies could play a key role in reversing the course of this pandemic
“Vaccines are likely to remain more effective and provide long-term protection,” said Daniel Skovronsky, Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer. So our solution does not compete with the vaccine, but offers a complementary solution, especially in emergency situations for people who have recently been exposed to the virus. Monoclonal antibodies could play a key role in reversing the course of this pandemic.
Much more expensive than vaccines
Recently, the U.S. government purchased 1.25 million doses of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, and thousands of doses of Bamlanivimab have also been ordered. So these drugs could be distributed immediately to patients that are at risk of developing the severe form of the disease to prevent it from happening. The only downside is the prohibitive cost of these antibodies: Regeneron’s cocktail costs $2,000 per dose and Eli Lilly’s treatment costs $1,200 per 700-mg bottle.