USA: It’s perhaps the most effective way to save your life if you are infected with COVID-19, but probably the least known. It reduces the risk of even being hospitalized by 70% to 85%, though it must be administered early to be effective – within four days of infection. Lives probably are being lost unnecessarily because people don’t know about it.
It’s monoclonal antibody treatment, abbreviated as mAb. To the extent the public has any familiarity with it they, may know it as Regeneron, though that’s actually the name of the company that makes the leading treatment, REGEN-COV2, and there are several other mAbs from other makers.
Health authorities for months back should have been issuing this message constantly: “Immediately after being exposed or you have COVID symptoms, get tested and ask if an antibody treatment is right for you.”
But they didn’t. They still aren’t. At least not in Illinois and most of the nation.
No reasonable explanation is evident and a significant number of lives may have been lost because of the failure to inform the public properly. And now, with antibody treatments getting more attention, the treatments must be rationed, adding to the tragedy. At least in part, the explanation is a sad one – politics, and politicized media.
The effectiveness of REGEN and other antibody treatments has been known since at least November when the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for REGEN and another mAb. Earlier tests had found REGEN to be over 70% effective in heading off serious illness and multiple subsequent tests have confirmed it.
“Many of us were talking about this as early as March ” wrote Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA commissioner.
“Regeneron did extraordinary work to secure their own manufacturing, but we needed a concerted industrial effort to get the supply we needed.”
Only over the last month have antibody treatments started to gain more attention. That’s probably because Dr. Anthony Fauci finally – belatedly – spoke up, saying that the treatments can reduce the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death by 70% to 85%. That seems to have been a signal to the establishment herd that it was permissible to talk about the treatments positively. The Biden Administration thereafter announced it would be stepping up purchases of the treatments.
But the increased attention has now caused a shortage of the treatments. What was in oversupply only a couple months ago is now being rationed. The Biden Administration just announced restrictions on how much of the treatments may be shipped to each state. From the Washington Post: “Soaring demand for the therapy represents a sharp turn from just two months ago, when monoclonal antibodies were widely available and awareness of them was low. With little promotion by the government, consumers, doctors and states were using just a tiny fraction of the available supply.”
Here in Illinois, health authorities and the media are completely behind the curve. It’s difficult to find even a word that has been said on the subject. The message isn’t being given that you should get tested fast if you think you are infected and see if antibody treatment is available to you.
Intensive care units in some parts of downstate Illinois are now full of COVID patients. How many of those hospitalizations would have been avoided if the victims had been aware of the treatment and acted quickly to get it?
That goes for most of the nation as well. Florida is one of six states among the exceptions. Those six states have been using the treatments aggressively, consuming 70% of the supply in recent weeks. That’s partly due to high, recent infection rates in most of those states, but also because they have seen the value of antibody treatment that other states have ignored, and they’ve told their people about it. That’s especially true of Florida, which I’ll get to.
Why haven’t health authorities and supposed experts been making a life-saving treatment better known?
One benign but irrational answer is that they don’t want to distract from the importance of vaccinations because they view prevention as better than treatment. For example, CNN’s expert, Dr. Leana Wen, said, “It’s totally backwards to say that we should be focused on treatment instead of emphasizing prevention, and the steps that we know work to stop Covid-19 in the first place.” And Dr. Christian Ramers, an infectious-disease specialist, told the Daily Beast. “It’s so much better to prevent a disease than to use an expensive, cumbersome and difficult-to-use therapy,” Ramers submitted. “It does not make any medical sense to lean into monoclonals to the detriment of vaccines. It’s like playing defense with no offense.”
That seems irrational on its face. Preventative vaccines and therapeutics like antibody treatment are not alternatives. Promote vaccines all you want, but when somebody is facing possible death, treat them.
But another explanation at least partially accounts for why mAbs have been shunned: The establishment doesn’t like the politics of who championed antibody therapy, particularly Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a leading, likely, Republican candidate for president.
Since at least November, DeSantis has been encouraging Floridians to seek the treatment if they get infected.
“And the good thing about this is millions of doses are ready to ship as we speak,” he said then.
“Soon as the FDA approves they will then go out within the next 24 hours and we expect our hospitals hopefully to receive these within the next three to six weeks. He later set up clinics specifically for providing the treatment.
Well, we certainly can’t be agreeing with anything he says, as MSM sees things, so the Associated Press led the charge. They did it by trying to implicate two others the left doesn’t like, Ken Griffin and his hedge fund, Citadel. Griffin is a Chicago billionaire who frequently supports Republicans and conservative causes.
So, in a column reprinted almost universally in the national and Illinois media, the AP linked DeSantis’ support for antibody treatments to a Citadel investment in Regeneron and Griffin’s campaign contributions to DeSantis.
It was a smear job, creating the impression that Regeneron’s product is snake oil peddled by DeSantis as a return favor. DeSantis responded appropriately, saying the column was a blatant political attack.
The AP wasn’t alone. A Bloomberg columnist on Twitter mocked DeSantis and the Regeneron product because of what he claimed it costs – $1,250 per dose – though vaccines are free. That’s false. DeSantis made the treatment free.
As you would expect, the press had another reason for dismissing the value of antibody treatments – Trump. He credited Regeneron’s product for helping with his recovery when he was infected. But that was because Regeneron’s CEO was a member of Trump’s golf club, said the Daily Mail. And Trump owned shares of Regeneron and Gilead, another mAb maker, so that must explain his claim, as USA Today would have you believe. “No, Regeneron did not cure Donald Trump of COVID,” The New Republic flatly told us in a headline, as if they had any idea.
The facts on antibody treatment have now overrun that political hype. Still today, however, the public remains mostly unaware of the efficacy and availability of the treatment, except in a few states like Florida. Although treatments are now being rationed, they are available to people in high risk groups everywhere.
Too bad the federal government didn’t ramp up its purchases of the product earlier.
Too bad every state didn’t promote it as heavily as Florida did.
Too bad states like Illinois still aren’t talking about it.
Too bad governors in states like Illinois aren’t saying what DeSantis is now saying, which is that he will “fight like hell” to get what he can of the available treatments now being rationed.
Too bad because we will never know how many lives might have been saved.
by Mark Glennon