WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The Biden administration moved this week to take over the distribution of monoclonal antibody therapies used to treat COVID-19.
Now, instead of individual states and medical centers ordering the treatments directly, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will decide where they are sent.
This change will likely result in cuts of the medication being sent to southern states, like Florida, that have been using close to 70 percent of the national supply amid recent spikes of COVID-19, the Washington Post reports.
Demand for the highly effective treatment has reportedly increased in recent months as federal and state officials, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have been promoting its use.
For about the past month, DeSantis has been on a statewide tour promoting the medication, which is being offered to patients for free, while continuing to slam other COVID mitigation tactics promoted by health care experts like mask-wearing and lockdowns. He also opened antibody treatment centers around Florida, including several in the Tampa Bay area.
“This system will help maintain equitable distribution, both geographically and temporally, across the country, providing states and territories with consistent, fairly distributed supply over the coming weeks,” an HHS spokesman told the Washington Post.
In response to the government's move, a spokesperson for DeSantis told the Post, “It is regrettable that the Biden administration would play politics with people’s lives during a pandemic, by withholding a life-saving treatment and providing mixed messages to Americans.”
At a news conference in Tampa, DeSantis said the state's supply dropped from nearly 40,000 doses to 18,000.
However, the Biden administration has vowed to ramp up distribution of the COVID therapy, reportedly purchasing another 1.4 million doses from the pharmaceutical company Regeneron for $2.9 billion.
In response to the Biden administration's decision, the governor said Florida would be receiving 3,000 doses of the Sotriovimab antibody treatment. The treatment, the governor says, works just like Regeneron's except it is only given through an intravenous line.
Health experts say monoclonal antibody treatments are effective in easing COVID-19 symptoms but are most effective within the first few days of diagnosis.
The therapy can be administered either through an IV or injection to people who have tested positive for COVID-19 as well as higher-risk people and people who have been exposed to the virus, as a preventative measure.
Dr. Kami Kim, division director of Infectious Diseases & International Medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, says the medication neutralizes the virus and works to shorten the duration of symptoms and avoid hospitalization.
Right now, monoclonal antibody treatment is still under Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA.