The demand for monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 is way up in the US, especially in the South.
Seven states make up 70 percent of orders for this therapy, which boosts the immune system’s ability to fight off Covid early in a patient’s infection.
These states are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas.
Many of these states have experienced recent increases, but residents have been hesitant to get vaccinated or take other precautions.
To better control the supply of this important treatment, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will manage its distribution while purchasing more than a million additional doses.
About 2.17 million doses of the treatment have been distributed in the US to date.
The demand for monoclonal antibodies reveals the cost of treating Covid patients, as one dose of an antibody treatment costs more than 100 times more than one dose of a vaccine.
Treatments with monoclonal antibodies such as Regeneron are in high demand, causing the HHS to take over the distribution. Pictured: A box and vial of the Regeneron treatment, in use at a Florida treatment site in August 2021
The monoclonal antibody treatments are most effective when used early in a patient’s infection, keeping them out of the hospital. Pictured: An intensive care nurse treats a Covid patient in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, in September 2021
Monoclonal antibodies have become an increasingly popular treatment for Covid in recent months.
Treatment consists of lab-made antibodies, types of immune system proteins that the body typically produces in response to an infection.
Scientists have designed monoclonal antibody treatments specifically to fight the coronavirus.
These antibodies are primed and ready to help the immune system – prevent a Covid infection from becoming serious enough that a patient needs to go to the hospital.
The treatment works best for people who are early in their disease progression, meaning they recently tested positive for Covid.
In particular, the HHS recommends that patients seek this treatment if they have underlying conditions that put them at higher risk for severe symptoms.
As Covid cases spiked during the Delta peak, the demand for monoclonal antibodies grew.
Demand is especially high in states with lower vaccination coverage, such as Florida and Texas.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has… approved the treatment, setting up state-run sites where patients can receive monoclonal antibodies — while blocking vaccination and mask requirements.
At a news conference Thursday, the DeSantis office said more than 90,000 monoclonal antibody treatments have been given to patients in the state of Florida.
In fact, 70 percent of orders for this treatment come from just seven southern states, according to CNN.
Those states are Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana.
The HHS now controls the supply of monoclonal antibodies to ensure all states have access to the treatment. Pictured: Eli Lilly’s treatment, photographed in India in April 2021
Since monoclonal antibodies have become widely available in the US, 2.17 million doses have been sent to healthcare facilities, the HHS told CNN.
As of Sept. 10, about 938,000 doses of the treatment have been used — accounting for about 43 percent of all doses shipped.
“Given this reality, we must work to ensure that our supply of these life-saving therapies remains available to all states and territories, not just a few,” an HHS spokesperson told CNN.
“HHS determines the amount of product each state and territory receives each week. State and territorial health departments will then identify locations that will receive products and how much,” the spokesperson said.
“This system will help maintain an equitable distribution, both geographically and temporally, across the country, giving states and territories a consistent, fairly distributed supply in the coming weeks.”
This federally determined system is a change from the previous monoclonal antibody ordering process, where each site of administration could directly order treatment.
Now, the HHS is directly assigning treatments to states and territories — similar to the government’s process of allocating vaccines earlier this year.
The HHS has also responded to the demand for monoclonal antibodies by purchasing more doses of the treatment.
The Biden administration has signed a contract with Regeneron for 1.4 million doses of its monoclonal antibody treatment.
Previously, the US bought 1.6 million doses of Regeneron.
In addition, the administration has purchased 388,000 doses of a similar treatment produced by Eli Lilly.
Eli Lilly is expected to ship 200,000 doses in the third quarter of 2021 and the rest in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Regeneron will ship its additional doses by the end of January 2020, the company said.
Regeneron’s treatment costs $2,100 for a dose — so 1.4 million doses adds up to a $2.94 billion total price tag for the US government.
Meanwhile, one dose of the Pfizer vaccine costs between $15 and $20.
Moderna’s vaccine is even cheaper for the US government, as the vaccine was partially funded by federal agencies.
In other words, preventing Covid with a vaccine is about 100 times cheaper than treating it with monoclonal antibodies.