Kennedy: Regeneron’s antibody ‘cocktail’ in spotlight

PHOTOGRAPHER:

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ antibody “cocktail” to fight COVID-19 is back in the spotlight after the governors of Florida and Texas pushed last week to open new infusion centers to make the treatment more readily available to counter the delta surge slamming their hospitals.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott even received the treatment – as have former President Donald Trump, adviser Rudy Giuliani and ex-New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie – after suffering a breakthrough infection despite full vaccination.

Regeneron, with expanding manufacturing operations in East Greenbush, is one of two companies currently providing antibody treatment under emergency use authorization from the government. It received its so-called EUA last November; a treatment developed by GlaxoSmithKline (with Vir Biotechnology) was approved in May.

A third company, Eli Lilly, saw its authorization “paused” in April over concerns about effectiveness against newer COVID strains.

The treatments are designed for patients 12 and older who have a mild-to-moderate case of COVID-19 and underlying health conditions that make it likely their infection will worsen and require hospitalization – hence the interest of states like Texas and Florida, where the delta variant is causing a run on hospital beds.

The “cocktails,” either a single dose or a combination of virus-neutralizing monoclonal antibodies, are usually administered intravenously, although Regeneron received authorization in June to also offer an injectable version.

Earlier this month, Regeneron reported a second-quarter financial windfall from its treatment, known as Regen-Cov.

Revenue in the April-to-June period rose 163%, to $5.1 billion, versus the 2020 quarter, with $2.7 billion of that coming directly from Regen-Cov as the company filled its second supply contract with the U.S. government. The doses are distributed by AmerisourceBergen to infusion centers, hospitals, doctors’ offices and other sites.

Under the contract, Regeneron provided 1.25 million doses, which the company expected would see the government program through to year’s end.

With the delta surge, though, Regeneron is watching closely whether demand might require additional doses, which the company is “confident” it could produce this year if asked, a spokeswoman told me this week.

She said orders from the government stockpile are running above 125,000 doses weekly. When Regeneron released second-quarter results Aug. 5, executives pegged weekly demand at 50,000 doses.

That increase has led to some debate among TV pundits about prevention (masks, vaccines) versus treatment (antibody “cocktails”), and drew Regeneron into the “culture wars” over mandates and personal freedom that also have featured the governors of Texas and
Florida.

Asked how Regeneron was handling the attention, spokeswoman Alexandra Bowie said the company has always been nonpartisan and science-focused.

“Our key message has been clear: Regen-Cov is not a substitute for vaccination,” she stated in an email. “We support public health measures and believe people should be vaccinated. We also believe sick people should be treated, and we have used our scientific capabilities to make that happen.”

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]

Categories: Business, News

Leave a Reply