While not surprising, this announcement and halt to a study based on the outstanding results points once again to the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies as THE proven treatment available today for COVID-19.
An unusual experiment to prevent nursing home staff members and residents from infection with the coronavirus has succeeded, the drug maker Eli Lilly announced on Thursday.
A drug containing monoclonal antibodies — laboratory-grown virus-fighters — prevented symptomatic infections in residents who were exposed to the virus, even the frail older people who are most vulnerable, according to preliminary results of a study conducted in partnership with the National Institutes of Health.
The researchers found an 80 percent reduction in infections among residents who got the drug, compared with those who got a placebo, and a 60 percent reduction among the staff, results that were highly statistically powerful, Eli Lilly said.
This study asked if the drug could stop infections before they started. It was an unusual experiment: In trucks equipped with mobile labs, medical staff sped to nursing homes the moment a single infection was detected there. As soon as the workers arrived, they set up temporary infusion centers to administer the drug.
The research ended this weekend with an emergency meeting of the data safety and monitoring board, an independent group monitoring the incoming results. The data were strong and convincing enough to call a halt to the placebos.
“My jaw dropped when I saw the table of outcomes,” said Dr. Myron Cohen, a professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and a principal investigator who helped design and implement the study. Although the study has ended, Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer, said the company would continue to rush to nursing homes in its study network when an outbreak is detected. “Everyone will get the drug,” he said.
And following vaccination, it can take six weeks for the body to produce enough antibodies for maximum protection, said Dr. Srilatha Edupuganti, a vaccine researcher at Emory University in Atlanta and a study investigator. The monoclonal antibody treatment, she said, can give nearly equivalent protection immediately, although it will not last as long as the protection offered by a vaccine.