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The Covid-19 pandemic teaches one lesson, over and over: The virus is moving faster than we are.

That difficult message was driven home Wednesday evening with news that an antibody cocktail developed by the drug maker Regeneron — the same cocktail used to treat President Trump —  reduced infected patients’ need to visit the doctor, virtually or in person, or go to the hospital by 57%.

Those are encouraging results — and, if authorized, the cocktail could be an important tool in beating back the virus. But right now, there are only 50,000 doses available, a pittance in comparison with the number of infections across the country.

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“It is deeply unfortunate that we head into fall without enough doses of this drug,” Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, tweeted after Regeneron released its news. “Many of us were talking about this as early as March. Regeneron did extraordinary work to secure their own manufacturing, but we needed a concerted industrial effort to get the supply we needed.”

Indeed, Gottlieb penned op-eds in the spring and summer calling for a government-backed effort to manufacture the antibodies in large volumes — akin to the massive effort to develop experimental, and still unproven, Covid-19 vaccines. He reiterated that action needs to be taken now to accumulate sufficient supply to treat high-risk patients.

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Most people who get Covid-19 get better on their own, so to make a material difference in the pandemic’s toll, effective antibody therapies need to be given to a lot of people to help a few. 

Elil Lilly has also seen encouraging results for its own antibody cocktail, but here too supply is limited.

The potential benefit of such treatments is huge if there were more doses — and if the logistics of using them can be managed. Both Regeneron’s drug and Eli Lilly’s need to be given intravenously.

Regeneron received funding from the U.S. government to ramp up production, and it has announced a partnership with Roche to scale up manufacturing further. The company expects to be able to produce 300,000 doses in the coming months. (The dose is a lot of antibody: 2.4 grams. Many antibody drug doses are measured in milligrams.)

Lilly has said it anticipates being able to ship 100,000 doses of its single antibody if regulators clear it, and could produce as much as a million doses by the end of the year. But that means using a dosage — 0.7 grams — that is lower than the one that appeared most effective in its single-antibody trial (2.8 grams) or the dose that was used in a trial of a combination antibody, which appeared more effective.

The companies, in being able to make doses for as many people as they have, have moved mountains. But it will be not enough. 

As with so many efforts to tame this pandemic, every victory is tainted by the approach of the next battle.

  • Many people are out of work or work but have time. Would any extra man hours be a help?? All one has to do is ask.

    • What I understood of those partial results by Eli Lilly of their anti-body cocktail is that they seemed to be ineffective for patients already hospitalized.

      This seems to make some sense as one is generally / on average hospitalized at around 15-20 days after initial infection (even though this period varies wildly). After such a period the virus will likely have invaded more organs than “just” the lungs. Momclonal antibodies are only effective on virus in the bloodstream, it doesn’t do anything for cells already infected by the virus

  • Why the medical community only focus on big pharma? Galidesivir is a pill long shelf life easy to make and it works! herd a word about this drug ?

  • looking at the comments, there are a lot of those fools that bought Sorrento stocks at a premium following their announcement they had a “miracle” coronavirus antibody (like pretty much every biotech out there), trying to recover their money. LOL

  • Am i the only reader who finds it odd to read that a product for which you need to go to the hospital to receive is useful because it reduces COVID patients’ need to go to the hospital?

    • There is a difference between going to hospital for 1 injection vs bring hospitalised for weeks. I suppose that was the message of the article

    • You don’t need to go to hospital to get an infusion. Day hospitals or specialist infusion clinics could easily be used. Moreover I’m pretty sure if you asked a high risk patient whether they would rather spend a couple hours at a clinic getting an infusion or have a 4x higher chance of hospitalisation most would choose the former!

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