The Biden administration said a COVID-19 treatment used on former President Trump and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is “underutilized” and should be given early to people who get the virus and want to avoid hospitalization.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said monoclonal antibody drugs from Eli Lilly, Regeneron and GlaxoSmithKline can reduce the risk of hospitalization by 70% to 85%.
“Each of these products targets the spike protein of [the coronavirus],” Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House COVID-19 briefing Tuesday. “It is underutilized and we recommend, strongly, that we use it to its fullest.”
He said the drugs are ideal for people over age 65 and those with underlying health conditions.
“This must be done early in infection,” Dr. Fauci said. “That’s when you get the best effect.”
The groundbreaking drugs have been around since last year and were credited with helping Mr. Trump overcome the virus, though they were sometimes overlooked because they required special administration sites.
Dr. Fauci highlighted a toll-free call center, 877-332-6585, and website — www.covid19treatmentguidelines.nih.gov — where people can learn more about the treatment and ways to get it.
Dr. Fauci’s plug for drug cocktails placed the administration in the unusual position of singing the same tune as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has been criticized by Mr. Biden over his resistance to vaccine and mask requirements, particularly in schools.
The governor is highlighting distribution centers that will administer the monoclonal antibodies, either intravenously or through injections, as he deals with a virus surge that has put 17,000 Floridians in the hospital, or 80 people per 100,000. Both metrics lead the nation.
Some critics say Mr. DeSantis should do more to require vaccines or masks, arguing they’re a more efficient way to prevent infection than after-the-fact interventions.
Mr. DeSantis says vaccines and masks are a matter of personal choice and the monoclonal antibodies are an effective way to help Floridians ensnared by the pandemic.
He scolded the Associated Press for a recent story that highlighted a top donor’s investments in Regeneron. He said it was impossible for him to try to boost Regeneron‘s profits because the federal government bought up the entire stock of the treatment.
“The AP produced zero evidence that Florida’s efforts are being undertaken for any reason other than to help Floridians recover from COVID. This will have real consequences for people’s health, especially given that the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment has a proven track record and has been touted by both the Trump and Biden administrations,” Mr. DeSantis wrote to the AP’s chief executive. “You succeeded in publishing a misleading, clickbait headline about one of your political opponents, but at the expense of deterring individuals infected with COVID from seeking life-saving treatment, which will cost lives. Was it worth it?”
Meanwhile, the bulk of the White House’s focus is on vaccinations.
The administration praised hospitals, companies and universities that added to the pile of employers and institutions requiring vaccination now that the Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine has been fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
White House COVID-19 Coordinator Jeff Zients praised CVS, Chevron, Texas Instruments and Ochsner Health, a large health system in Louisiana, for requiring the shots.
“We expect more and more to follow,” Mr. Zients said. “You have the power to protect your communities and help end the pandemic through vaccination requirements.”
He also said more people are seeking out the shots, generally, amid daunting headlines about the delta variant. The U.S. administered 6 million shots in the last seven days.
“That’s the highest seven-day total in over a month and a half,” he said. “We’re seeing the greatest increases in states that had been lagging on vaccinations, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, more people got their first shots in the past month than in the prior two months combined. This is critical progress. In the face of the delta variant, more and more Americans are stepping up each day to get vaccinated.”