The questionable treatment at the center of the matter is bamlanivimab, a monoclonal antibody therapy developed by pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, which noted in a Wednesday release that its deal with the government is worth $375 million.
The DoD and HHS plan to distribute the intravenous treatment to states and local health departments for outpatient care once it is authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the news release explains.
“The US is experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and associated hospitalizations, and we believe bamlanivimab could be an important therapeutic option that can bring value to the overall health care system, as it has shown a potential benefit in clinical outcomes with a reduction in viral load and rates of symptoms and hospitalizations,” David A. Ricks, Eli Lilly's chairman and CEO, said in a statement accompanying the release.
The Wednesday release appears to be a shift in stance by Eli Lilly, which earlier this week indicated in a separate statement that there was “insufficient evidence that bamlanivimab improved clinical outcomes when added to other treatments in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.”
Additionally, the company noted that in a separate clinical trial run by the US’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, researchers determined that “bamlanivimab is unlikely to help hospitalized COVID-19 patients recover from this advanced stage of their disease.”
The study of the drug was previously paused on October 13 out of caution due to a potential safety concern. However, researchers eventually ruled that the therapy did not pose any significant safety concerns, Military.com explained.
However, some company officials have stressed that the therapy is still effective for milder cases of COVID-19 and "may prevent progression of disease for those earlier in the course of COVID-19," according to the earlier statement.
According to Eli Lilly’s Wednesday release, it plans on manufacturing 1 million doses of bamlanivimab by the end of 2020, and plans to have 100,000 doses ready to ship within days of receiving an FDA authorization.
“The supply of Lilly's antibody therapy is expected to increase substantially beginning in Q1 2021, as additional manufacturing resources come online throughout the year,” the company predicts.