The United States has signed contracts worth nearly $1 billion from Britain’s GSK and US-based Vir Biotechnology for antibody-based COVID-19 treatment supplements, as countries seek to secure promising alternatives beyond vaccines.
Drugmakers said Wednesday that US orders bring the total number of doses supplied globally to more than 750,000, without specifying how many doses of the treatment, sotrovimab, the US government had signed up for.
However, other public deals for the drug include up to 10,000 doses for Canada and up to 220,000 doses for the European Union. The values of those orders have not been disclosed.
GSK and Vir said in their joint statement that US deliveries of the Zewoodi branded treatment are expected by December 17 and the government will also have the option of purchasing more doses by March 2022.
While vaccines are at the center of the long-term fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, treatments, which include game-changing antiviral pills from Merck and Pfizer, offer options to prevent infection and save lives.
Pfizer said on Tuesday it was seeking US authorization for its experimental antiviral COVID-19 pill, which can reduce hospitalization or death for adults at risk of serious illness to 89% in a clinical trial.
GSK-Vir’s sotrovimab has shown in trials to reduce that risk by 79%.
Unlike the oral options from Merck and Pfizer, sotrovimab is given through an infusion. It belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies which are laboratory-generated compounds that mimic the body’s natural defences.
The therapy was authorized for emergency use in the United States in May to prevent worsening of mild or moderate cases of COVID-19. The European regulator has given its approval for use by member states, although EU-wide approval is still pending.
Last week, GSK and Weir said the antibody treatment was shown to work in trials when given as a shot in the arm when administered via standard infusion, potentially offering greater convenience.
Sotrovimab generated sales of 130 million pounds ($175 million) for GSK in the first nine months of 2021.
Similar products are being offered or are being developed by Eli Lilly, Regeneron, AstraZeneca and Celtrion. Last month US officials said the government would control the distribution of sotrovimab in the country.
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