Lilly’s Antibody Treatment Prevents COVID-19 Spread at Nursing Home
Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 neutralizing antibody LY-CoV555 (Bamlanivimab), which previously failed in ACTIV-3 sub-study to add any clinical value to hospitalized patients, has been now shown to drastically reduce the risk of contracting symptomatic COVID-19 in residents and staff of nursing homes/long-term care facilities. Antibody therapy already exists for treating mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 and Lilly’s Bamlanivimab might just provide that extra cushion for the vulnerable population.
BLAZE-2, is an ongoing open-label trial to test the safety and efficacy of bamlanivimab against COVID-19. This is a first of its kind trial where the participants were enrolled from vulnerable long term facilities. The study is expected to enroll around 5000 participants.
Early data from 132 participants with COVID-19 showed that bamlanivimab treatment significantly reduced the symptoms of COVID-19. Further, out of the 299 participants who took bamlanivimab as a preventive medicine, there was a significant reduction in COVID-19 contraction compared to placebo.
In the preventive arm, four deaths were attributed to COVID-19 with all of them in the placebo group. This data suggests that bamlanivimab can not only inhibit symptoms of COVID-19 patients who already have the virus, but it can also prevent contraction of the virus.
If this data holds in the long run, this might be a huge boost for health care workers and other high-risk occupations. The full results will be presented in a future medical congress and published in a peer reviewed journal.
“We are exceptionally pleased with these positive results, which showed bamlanivimab was able to help prevent COVID-19, substantially reducing symptomatic disease among nursing home residents, some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Daniel Skovronsky, M.D., Ph.D., Lilly’s Chief Scientific Officer and President of Lilly Research Laboratories.
“These data provide important additional clinical evidence regarding the use of bamlanivimab to fight COVID-19 and strengthen our conviction that monoclonal antibodies such as bamlanivimab can play a critical role in turning the tide of this pandemic. We’re glad bamlanivimab is already available as a treatment for patients at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 illness or hospitalization, including those in nursing homes, and look forward to working with regulators to explore expanding the emergency use authorization to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in these facilities”
Challenges in the Market
Lilly’s primary competitor in antibody therapy for COVID-19 is Regeneron. However, due to dosing logistics, federal policies in place, both antibodies are off to a snail’s place in the US. Although both have already received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from FDA as of last November, distribution and uptake has been relatively slow owing to the need of a medical practitioner for infusing the medicines.
Additionally, the approval is valid for mild-moderate patients, most of whom prefer to stay at the comfort of their home instead of a hospital. Further challenges have been recently brought in by the mutations of the viral strain raising questions about the efficacy of the antibodies. While Regeneron maintains that their cocktail antibody is effective against both strains (UK, South Africa) discovered as of now, Lilly isn’t too certain about the South African variant.
Meanwhile, reports say that other biopharmaceuticals have already started testing variations of their vaccines against these mutating strains. AstraZeneca earned itself $486 million in funding for antibody research from the US government last October. Their antibody combination AZD7442, is being investigated as a preventive treatment option in approximately 4000 patients.
Other companies such as Vir Biotechnology is advancing its candidate to Phase 3 trials, while Adagio Therapeutics believes that their in-house therapy has the potential to combat the mutations. With so many options available, it’s going to be an interesting race to watch as to who captures most of the market shares.
By T. Chakraborty, Ph.D.
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