With variants spreading, Eli Lilly cuts solo COVID-19 antibody out of its U.S. supply deal

After lab testing found Eli Lilly's solo COVID-19 antibody couldn't match its combo against emerging coronavirus variants, the feds stopped using it in several states where one variant was running rampant.

Now, Lilly has stopped supplying bamlanivimab as a solo therapy to the U.S. completely. Under a revised supply deal with the government, Lilly's combo therapy—which pairs bamlanivimab with another new antibody, etesevimab—will be the only option on tap.

The modified agreement will cancel the 350,865 doses of bamlanivimab that were supposed to be delivered by the end of March, Lilly said. 

Under the new deal, Lilly will also send doses of etesevimab to pair up with the country’s existing supply of bamlanivimab, even for the doses already delivered to infusion sites. 

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Lilly’s monoclonal treatment bamlanivimab was the first neutralizing antibody to score FDA authorization against COVID-19. The antibody was OK'd in November to prevent newly diagnosed Covid-19 patients from developing severe symptoms. 

The company later developed the combined treatment with etesevimab to help tackle emerging variants of Sars-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, that are “likely to resist treatment” from monoclonal antibodies, Lilly said. The FDA authorized Lilly’s drug combo in February. 

The company recently posted strong data backing the combined drug therapy. Based on phase 3 clinical trial data, the bamlanivimab-etesevimab duo slashed hospitalizations by 87% versus placebo. 

RELATED: Feds halt Eli Lilly's solo antibody rollout in 3 states on worries about local coronavirus variant

The amended supply agreement also comes after the FDA instructed Lilly and Regeneron in March to monitor their authorized drugs against emerging variants.

The federal agency asked both companies to establish a process for monitoring genomic databases for variants and provide monthly summaries of their findings.

Shortly afterward, federal officials stopped distributing bamlanivimab in three states—California, Arizona and Nevada—because of concerns of a variant circulating there.