Does America have a two-tiered health system – one for the entitled and one for the rest of us?
When former President Donald Trump contracted Covid-19 just before the 2020 election, his first treatment by doctors was administering Regeneron’s antibody cocktail, dubbed REGN-COV2.
Trump recovered quickly, and was back to work in less than a week, despite advanced age and being overweight. That was the last we heard much about Regeneron in the mass media until Texas Governor Greg Abbott contracted the virus seven days ago.
On Saturday Abbott tweeted he had tested negative for the the illness – another success story for using a drug treatment, rather than just relying on vaccines.
Japan and the United Kingdom are among 20 countries that use the Regeneron cocktail to treat patients.
In the U.S., Regeneron has finally completed the first FDA BLA submission for the antibody cocktail.
The FDA has not approved it for just anyone already hospitalized for COVID-19 or for those who aren’t at high risk of becoming seriously ill – unless it seems their name is Trump, Abbott or they are someone else rich or famous.
The U.S. government has so far allocated some 127,700 of the 300,000 courses it ordered in November to states and territories, which then gave the medicine to healthcare facilities. Only about 72,000 of those doses have been delivered to patients.
Why haven’t all the doses been used? Is it government bungling, medical industry caution, or the desire to push vaccines as the only effective solution?
It also would be interesting to learn names of those who have already been privileged to receive the treatment.
With approval of the treatment by other nations, U.S. officials finally have decided to act quickly on behalf of the general public.
Of course, the usual suspects had to make windfall profits from this “cure.” Americans once again were hit with a far bigger bill than other developed nations.
Japan, for example, negotiated a price of some $800 a Regeneron treatment, while our government made a terrible deal by comparison.
The new deal (1.25 million additional doses) with the U.S. government comes on top of a previous agreement to buy 300,000 doses. It values each dose at $2,100, up from $1,500 a dose in the earlier round.
Piper Sandler analyst Christopher Raymond noted the jump in a note to investors and increased his revenue estimate for the 2021 fiscal year by about $1.6 billion.
Barron’s noted that “antibody drugs have the potential to treat sick Covid-19 patients, but could also “theoretically prevent people who had been exposed to the virus from getting sick, or even offer short-term vaccine-like immunity.”
Regeneron said its antibody cocktail, “made up of casirivimab and imdevimab, may prove to be a crucial weapon because it binds to multiple sites on the virus, limiting its ability to escape.”
Eli Lilly’s rival treatment, by comparison, uses a single antibody called bamlanivimab.
The price to the patient is free for Regeneron, since taxpayers are coughing up the $2,100 a dose.
COVID-19 patients must be in a hospital or clinic to get the infusion in case of a reaction, and so actually administering the drug is yet another taxpayer expense.