US to Pay Eli Lilly $375 Million for 300,000 Vials of Experimental COVID-19 Antibody Drug

October 28, 2020 Updated: October 28, 2020

The U.S. government will pay Eli Lilly $375 million to secure an initial supply of 300,000 vials of bamlanivimab, the pharma company’s experimental COVID-19 drug pending emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Eli Lilly on Wednesday announced the deal, adding that it expects to manufacture 1 million doses of bamlanivimab by the end of year, with 100,000 doses ready to ship for use around the world soon after authorization.

“The U.S. 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 healthcare 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, Lilly’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

It will be used in antibody treatment for “high-risk” COVID-19 patients with mild-to-moderate symptoms, the drugmaker said. If the FDA grants it an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), the patients will not have to pay for the medicine.

“The initial agreement is for delivery over the two months following an EUA and also provides the option for the U.S. government to purchase up to an additional 650,000 vials through June 30, 2021,” the company’s statement read.

In September, Eli Lilly reported that the bamlanivimab treatment appeared to reduce the risk that patients would need hospitalization or seek emergency care and help lower CCP virus levels in those with mild or moderate symptoms.

Earlier this week, however, researchers said bamlanivimab was “unlikely” to help patients already hospitalized with COVID-19 recover from their advanced stage, and recommended not to resume study of the drug in that setting.

Lilly is the third antibody drug developer to secure a manufacturing or supply agreement with the Trump administration. In July, the federal government agreed to pay Regeneron $450 million to claim up to 300,000 doses of the New York-based biotech company’s experimental COVID-19 antibody drug. Earlier this month, just days after President Donald Trump was treated for COVID-19, the federal government awarded $486 million to British drugmaker AstraZeneca, which is expected to deliver up to 100,000 doses of its antibody drug to the United States by the end of the year.

While vaccines reduce the risk of infection by training the body’s immune system to recognize and combat the virus, antibody drugs are designed to mimic or enhance the body’s immune response to fight infection, producing a temporary effect that could help prevent infected patients from developing worse symptoms.