2021-09-24 18:28:58 W.H.O. Backs Antibody Treatment For High-Risk Covid Patients
W.H.O. Backs Antibody Treatment For High-Risk Covid Patients
A World Health Organization panel has recommended using a monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid patients who are at high risk of hospitalization or who are not producing antibodies to fight the disease.
The treatment, developed by the American pharmaceutical company Regeneron and the Swiss biotech company Roche, delivers lab-made copies of the antibodies that people naturally produce when fighting infection via infusion. It has gained popularity as an alternative – albeit expensive – treatment for Covid-19, particularly among those who have avoided vaccines. The treatment, a cocktail of two antibodies administered via infusion, was given to former President Donald J. Trump last fall, shortly after he was diagnosed with Covid.
The Biden administration has also advocated for the treatment’s use in states where vaccinations have stalled and cases are on the rise, and its use has skyrocketed in less vaccinated Southern states.
The World Health Organization panel cited data from three unpublished clinical trials, as well as a large British study of Covid patients known as Recovery, which showed that the treatment likely reduces the risk of hospitalization in mildly ill patients who are at high risk of worsening because they are older, unvaccinated, or immunocompromised. The data also revealed that the treatment reduces the likelihood of being placed on a ventilator or dying in hospitalized Covid patients who do not appear to produce their own antibodies.
According to a news release issued on Thursday, data from the Recovery trial indicated that the treatment may have reduced deaths by as much as 49 per 1,000 in severely ill patients and 87 per 1,000 in critically ill patients.
However, the panel concluded that “any benefits of this antibody treatment are unlikely to be meaningful” for patients at lower risk and with less severe symptoms, and urged such patients to avoid seeking it “in order not to exacerbate health inequity and limited availability of the therapy.”
The World Health Organization urged Regeneron and Roche on Friday to lower the price of the treatment and make it more widely available, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization said it was in talks with Roche, the drug’s manufacturer, about donating doses to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) for distribution in specific areas.
Some health experts in the United States were concerned that promoting the therapy, which the government covers at a cost of $2,100 per dose, was diverting time and resources away from efforts to get more Americans vaccinated against Covid.
The Biden administration, on the other hand, is promoting both vaccinations and therapy. Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a White House adviser on racial equity in health, said last month that the administration “continues to stand ready to assist states, territories, and jurisdictions across the country to get more people connected” to antibody treatments, despite emphasizing that vaccinations were the best way to prevent Covid.