Fifteen Republican lieutenant governors have urged President Biden to reverse his administration’s decision last month to seize distribution of monoclonal antibody therapies for COVID-19, calling it an “unjustified, targeted attack.”
“The restrictions of the supply of this lifesaving treatment are unwarranted and unexplained,” said the letter, which was shared with The Washington Times.
“As the second-in-command for our respective states, we have all witnessed how monoclonal antibody treatments have reduced the burden on hospitals and ultimately saved the lives of countless COVID-19 patients, especially those in high-risk groups,” the officials said.
“The federal rationing of mAb treatment stands to hurt the most vulnerable,” they wrote.
The Health and Human Services Department took over distribution on Sept. 13, citing a nationwide surge in demand, but the lieutenant governors said that the “unjustified, targeted attack from your Administration has forced us to make difficult decisions that no leader should have to make.”
“Denying treatment to patients in certain states under the guise of ‘equitable distribution’ does nothing but cause confusion, uncertainty, and human suffering,” the letter said.
“For these reasons, we request you reverse the supply cuts, allow healthcare providers to order directly from wholesalers again, and revert to the HHS policy in place prior to September 13, 2021,” the lieutenant governors wrote.
In its announcement, HHS said the move was made to help “ensure consistent availability of these critical drugs for current and future patients in all geographic areas of the country,” particularly in “areas of the country with low vaccination rates.”
Seven Southern states were reportedly responsible for about 70% of the national usage of monoclonal antibodies, which, when administered to COVID-19 patients at the onset of symptoms, resulted in a 70%-85% reduction in hospitalization and death, according to clinical trials.
“As we continue to help the citizens of our states access testing, vaccines, and monoclonal antibody treatments, we fear that your Administration’s rationing of COVID-19 treatments will disrupt the progress we have made,” the letter said. “Allowing states and healthcare providers to distribute monoclonal antibody treatments to meet the needs of their own communities is essential to our shared goal of saving lives from COVID-19.”
Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis was an early booster, touting the treatment and the state’s success in curbing hospitalizations while feuding with Mr. Biden over vaccination mandates.
Mr. DeSantis announced Sept. 16 that the state experienced a 50% reduction in hospital admissions since setting up the first monoclonal antibody site on Aug. 12. Florida had 25 such sites as of last month.
“COVID-19 infections peak in different regions at different times of year,” said the letter, led by Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez. “For the federal government to restrict care for patients in states that are currently experiencing higher case rates is anything but equitable.”
The federal government controlled the distribution after the treatment received emergency-authorization use from the Food and Drug Administration in November, but lifted its controls in February because “initial demand for monoclonal antibodies was much lower than available supply,” according to the American Hospital Association.
In addition to Ms. Nunez, the lieutenant governors on the letter are Will Ainsworth of Alabama; Kevin Meyer of Alaska; Tim Griffin of Arkansas; Janice McGeachin of Idaho; Suzanne Crouch of Indiana; Adam Gregg of Iowa; Boyd Rutherford of Maryland; Kristen Juras of Montana; Mark Robinson of North Carolina; Jon Husted of Ohio; Matt Pinnell of Oklahoma; Brent Sanford of North Dakota; Randy McNally of Tennessee, and Craig Blair of West Virginia.
U.S. cases of COVID-19 have been on the decline for about a month, falling 35% since Sept. 1, according to The New York Times database.