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Some COVID-19 therapies showing less effective against omicron variant

Research shows the therapies from Eli Lilly and Regeneron have proven to be less effective against the omicron variant.

INDIANAPOLIS — New data on two popular COVID-19 antibody treatments show the omicron variant overpowers its effectiveness.

Research shows the therapies from Eli Lilly and Regeneron have proven to be less effective, but the third treatment from U.K. drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline shows a strong response against the new COVID-19 strain.

Right now, three antibody treatments are approved to fight COVID-19: Regeneron monoclonal antibodies, Eli Lilly's antibody treatments and GlaxoSmithKline's sotrovimab monoclonal antibody.

At the same time, hospitals across Indiana are already stretched thin, short-staffed and tired from fighting the delta surge.

On Monday, the omicron variant officially became the dominant strain in the U.S. and makes up about 73% of new cases, according to the CDC.

"We need to tailor our treatment algorithms appropriately. So, knowing what variant is present may impact treatment," said Dr. Graham Carlos with Eskenazi Hospital.

The antibody COVID-19 treatments are usually used to keep high-risk patients from getting seriously ill and ending up in the hospital.

"Now this is very early on in the studies and there is more research going in but the early data suggests they are not as effective as they were maybe against delta or other variants of this virus," said Thomas Duszynski with the Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health.

Duszynski said the difference in effectiveness isn't surprising because the variant is different than the virus that the antibodies were originally trained to fight.

"We don't want to change vaccines. We don't want to change these monoclonal antibodies if we don't have to. So, if there is some level of efficacy that is still there then there is no reason to change," he said.

With fewer treatments being available right now, this could also put more of a strain on hospitals.

That's why Duszynski said it's important for Hoosiers to avoid infection by staying protected.  

"Every time someone gets infected, we have this opportunity for new variants or mutations to occur in the population," he said.

Besides antibody treatments, there is also Remdesivir, which is an FDA-approved antiviral medication.

On Wednesday, Pfizer's COVID-19 pill was authorized in the U.S. It's the first drug of its kind to be approved. It will allow people infected with COVID-19 to take a pill at home and hopefully stay out of the hospital.

It's prescribed to patients 12 and older shortly after they develop symptoms.

Merck is also waiting for approval on a similar COVID-19 treatment pill. 

Statement from Eli Lilly

Lilly's investigational antibody, bebtelovimab, maintains neutralization activity as determined by pseudovirus assays against all known variants of concern, including Omicron. We are urgently working with the FDA to make bebtelovimab available under an emergency use authorization and expect authorization in Q1 2022.

Lilly's top priority and purpose is to create medicines that make life better. Our work continues in support of the fight against COVID-19.

As Lilly shared in a statement on December 20, 2021, bamlanivimab with etesevimab has demonstrated reduced neutralization activity against the Omicron variant of concern, also determined by pseudovirus assay.   

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