Lilly says its COVID-19 antibody helps reduce risk in nursing homes

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Eli Lilly and Co. said a new study shows its antibody treatment significantly reduced the risk of residents and staff at nursing homes developing symptomatic COVID-19 disease.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker said Thursday morning that the results of an eight-week study suggest that participants who received the antibody, called bamlanivimab, had up to an 80% lower risk of contracting COVID-19 symptoms, compared with residents who received a placebo.

The disease has hit hard in nursing homes, where elderly residents have contracted it in large numbers. Nearly 102,000 nursing home residents and more than 1,300 staff have died from COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The trial results support the belief that bamlanivimab and other monoclonal antibodies can reduce symptoms and might even prevent COVID-19, said Dr. Myron S. Cohen, co-principal investigator of the study and director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in a press release issued by Lilly.

In the study, Lilly tested 1,097 nursing home residents and staff across the United States. The company said that at the beginning of the trial, 965 participants tested negative for COVID-19 (299 residents and 666 staff) and were included in the main analysis. Another 132 participants (41 residents and 91 staff) tested positive at the outset and were including in a separate analysis for assessing treatment. All participants were given either 4,200 milligrams of bamlanivimab or a placebo.

Among the 299 residents in the prevention group, there were four deaths attributed to COVID-19, and all of them had received the placebo, Lilly said. No participants in that group who received the antibody died. Likewise, among the 41 residents in the treatment group, there were four deaths, and all of them had received placebo.

“We are exceptionally pleased with these positive results, which showed bamlanivimab was able to help prevent COVID-19, substantially reducing symptomatic disease among nursing home residents, some of the most vulnerable members of our society,” said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer, in a written statement.

Over the entire trial, there were a total of 16 deaths reported, including deaths not related to COVID-19, and all deaths were residents. Eleven had received placebo and five received the antibody.

Lilly’s antibody was approved for emergency use in November for treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in high-risk patients.

Lilly will work with U.S. regulators to explore expanding the experimental drug’s emergency-use authorization to include prevention of the spread Covid-19 in long-term care facilities, Skovronsky said.

“This is an urgent situation,” he said. “Where there’s an outbreak in nursing homes and people haven’t yet received the vaccine, this could be a potential way to protect them before they get it.”

“There’s potential in patients who are too frail to get a vaccine or don’t qualify” because of other illnesses, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sam Fazeli in a note on Thursday. The drug’s additional use may already be factored into Lilly’s $1 billion to $2 billion sales guidance for 2021, he said.

Stock in Lilly rose as much as 1.5% in early trading before falling slightly later in the morning, to $20.45 per share.

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