A drug developed by Eli Lilly dramatically reduced the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 among nursing home residents, the company said.

Of 299 residents, half of whom received a placebo, those randomized to receive the drug bamlanivimab had up to an 80% lower risk of contracting COVID-19, according to a study that has not yet been published.

Health care providers at the same nursing homes were statistically less likely to contract symptomatic COVID-19 after receiving bamlanivimab, which was delivered in a 4,200 mg dose. Among 41 residents who already tested positive for the virus, none died after receiving the drug compared with four deaths in the placebo group.

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The BLAZE-2 COVID-19 prevention trial was conducted in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Bamlanivimab, which is authorized for use in high-risk COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate disease, is a so-called monoclonal antibody – meaning it provides a manufactured version of antibodies the immune system naturally makes to fight an infection.

“The results of this innovative study further support the belief that bamlanivimab – and potentially other monoclonal antibodies – can reduce symptoms and may even prevent COVID-19,” Dr. Myron Cohen, who helped lead the study and directs the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, said in a statement. “The antiviral activity seen with bamlanivimab treatment emphasizes the importance of early intervention to help counter the devastating impact the virus has had in this vulnerable population and other high-risk patients.”

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The federal government bought hundreds of thousands of doses of bamlanivimab and a similar drug from Regeneron, which President Donald Trump received when he was sick with COVID-19 in October.

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Most of those doses have gone unused, because the drugs must be given to patients not sick enough to be hospitalized. They are delivered via hourlong infusions when patients are highly contagious.

More information on obtaining monoclonal antibodies is available at covid.infusioncenter.org

Contact Karen Weintraub at kweintraub@usatoday.com

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Eli Lilly reports its monoclonal antibody treatment cuts COVID-19 risk



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