FL using mostly Regeneron for monoclonal treatment, but it’s questionable when it comes to omicron

By: - January 18, 2022 3:35 pm

A clinical researcher examines a flask of COVID antibodies used to develop monoclonal antibodies therapies to treat early-stage COVID infections. Gianluca Panella/Getty Images 2021

Florida health officials announced additional state-supported monoclonal antibody treatment centers opening Tuesday to fight COVID-19 surges, but health experts warn that only certain therapeutics may be effective against the omicron variant that continues to circulate throughout the nation.

According to the Florida Department of Health, Gov. Ron DeSantis had secured 15,000 doses of Regeneron on Jan. 7 to be distributed at the new monoclonal antibody sites located in Duval, Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach and Seminole counties.

But how can residents be sure that the treatment is effective, given the puzzling information?

The National Institutes of Health issued its latest guidance on effective treatments against the more transmissible omicron variant, including an antibody treatment called Sotrovimab and other treatments such as Remdesivir.

Regeneron wasn’t recommended by NIH federal health officials on December 30 to treat omicron cases. However, Regeneron plus another drug from Eli Lilly are still available for states to order from the Department of Health and Human Services, according to updated guidance from HHS.

The HHS said in an announcement that: In light of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) clinical guidelines published on Dec. 30, 2021, and the significant variability in prevalence of the Omicron Variant of Concern, all states and territories can continue to order both Lilly (bamlanivimab plus etesevimab) and Regeneron (casirivimab plus imdevimab) monoclonal antibody products from HHS based on allocated amounts for clinically appropriate use.”

Dr. Michael Teng, associate professor of medicine at the University of South Florida, told the Florida Phoenix in a phone conversation that both Lilly and Regeneron “don’t work against the omicron variant.” Instead, Teng said “Sotrovimab is effective but the nation is in short supply.”

Still, Teng said, the best way to fight the recent COVID-19 surges throughout the nation and in Florida is through vaccination and booster shots to eligible age groups.

DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw did not provide a specific answer on the effectiveness of Regeneron related to omicron, but she directed the Phoenix to the state Department of Health.

However, she did point to comments made by DeSantis on Jan. 5, saying “there’s not enough evidence to say the Regeneron” doesn’t work. Pushaw added that “there is still a lot to learn about the omicron variant because it is relatively new and not many studies have been done yet.”

“Anecdotally we’ve seen some positive outcomes, but even if it’s a reduction from 80%, uh, to 50% end, if you’re a high risk person, wouldn’t you want your symptoms or your chance of being hospitalized reduced in half, that’s a really, really big deal. And so we wanna make sure that we’re able to do that,” DeSantis said.

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.