Oct 30, 2020 - Health

The good and bad news about coronavirus antibody therapies

Illustration of a coronavirus cell surrounded by hands holding magnifying glasses

Illustration: Axios Visuals

Antibody treatments are showing promise as an important tool against the coronavirus, but there aren't going to be a lot of them at first and they could also come with hefty price tags.

Driving the news: Regeneron announced on Wednesday that its antibody cocktail reduced infected patients’ need to visit the doctor or go to the hospital by 57% — but there are only 50,000 doses available right now, Stat reports.

  • The treatment is given early on in the course of the disease, meaning that it can't be rationed for only the sickest patients.
  • The company is ramping up production and expects to be able to produce 300,000 doses in the coming months.
  • Eli Lilly has said that it could ship 100,000 doses of its single antibody if it's cleared by regulators, and could produce up to a million doses by the end of the year.

Between the lines: Lilly has agreed to provide 300,000 doses of its antibody to the federal government, which plans to distribute them at no cost.

  • However, the therapy is given by intravenous infusion, which can cost well over $1,000, NPR reports. Insured patients could end up on the hook for hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.
  • That means that infected patients — of which only a small percentage require hospitalization — will have to decide whether it's worth getting the treatment, and possibly an expensive bill, in order to reduce the risk of future hospitalization from the virus.
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