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Debate over monoclonal antibodies widens

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Monoclonal antibodies such as those made by Regeneron and GlaxoSmithKline won’t work for every Covid-19 patient; mAbs, as they are known, are only available for people age 12 and older and who aren’t hospitalized or severely ill.

Regeneron’s therapy can also be used for some people who know they were exposed to the virus,but don’t yet have a positive test. That protection doesn’t last long, though, and it’s not a replacement for the vaccine.

With his Regeneron treatment, Abbott joined a list of high-profile conservatives, including Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani and President Donald Trump, who relied on the therapy.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who, like Abbott, has banned vaccine passports and limited mandates on masks in schools, has been promoting the treatments at events. Florida also created a rapid response unit to administer the treatments to residents infected with the virus.

“These monoclonal antibodies, Regeneron and others, have proven to radically reduce the chance that somebody ends up being hospitalized and at the end of the day, reducing hospital admissions is got to be a top priority and if you reduce those admissions, people don’t go to the hospital to begin with, you know they’re going to recover and so that’s a really important thing,” said DeSantis, a Republican.

The treatments are effective at reducing severe disease; however, some scientists have been critical of the push for these treatments over other, easier prevention methods.

“We know what works to prevent people from contracting this disease in the first place, masking and vaccination. We should be focusing on these preventive measures,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and visiting professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. “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.”

Here’s what you should know about monoclonal antibodies for Covid-19.

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made proteins, that can mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off threats like the coronavirus.

When a patient is infected it takes a little while for their body to produce antibodies that can help them fight the infection. These treatments, also known as mAbs, can speed up the body’s ability to fight infection.

Two mAbs made specifically to fight the coronavirus are in use in the United States right now.

The US Food and Drug Administration gave an emergency use authorization to a treatment made by Regeneron called casirivimab and imdevimab, and another made by GlaxoSmithKline called sotrovimab. So far, none have received full FDA approval.

In April, the FDA revoked its emergency use authorization and put a pause on the distribution of Eli Lilly’s antibody treatment bamlanivimab since it wasn’t as effective against variants in circulation in the US. In June, HHS announced a pause in the distribution of Lilly’s other treatment etesevimab, as well as its combination of the two monoclonals, as neither worked as well against the Gamma and Beta coronavirus variants.

The antibody therapy made by Regneron is also authorized to be used as a preventative treatment, or what’s known as a post-exposure prophylaxis.

It can be given to someone who has been exposed to an infectious person, or it can be given to someone who is at a high risk of exposure, like people who live in a nursing home that has had a recent case.

As prevention, the mAbs are meant to be used in patients who are not fully vaccinated, or in people who are not expected to mount an adequate immune response to a vaccine — like people who have had an organ transplant and are immunocompromised.

The treatments for people infected with Covid-19 are for non-hospitalized adults and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older who have a risk of getting severe Covid-19.

Monoclonal antibodies are meant to be used early in the course of the disease to keep it from progressing. A patient who is sick should get the treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis and within 10 days of symptom onset. (CNN)

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