Intermountain researchers find Eli Lilly antibody to be ineffective for hospitalized patients

Utah researchers contributed to a study that found the Eli Lilly monoclonal antibody ineffective for treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients, according to a news release from Intermountain Healthcare. While the antibody, also known as LY-CoV555 or bamlanivimab, has shown promising preventative results when given to outpatients not yet in need of hospitalization, the study concluded the antibody has no effect on patients who have already been hospitalized from COVID-19 complications. 


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“These results don’t mean that LY-CoV555 doesn’t really work in outpatients, or that another monoclonal antibody won’t work on people who are hospitalized, but in this particular instance, it’s not a good match between treatment and patient,” said Samuel M. Brown, MD, MS, director of Pulmonary/Critical Care research at Intermountain Medical Center and a member of the international committee that designed and led the trial. 

The FDA granted Emergency Use Authorization of Ly-CoV555 in November for patients not requiring hospitalization. Health facilities in Utah have been giving the antibody to COVID-positive patients at high risk of severe disease.

Funded by Operation Warp Speed, the study enrolled 314 COVID-positive patients in 31 different hospitals across the US (including Intermountain Medical Center and the University of Utah Hospital), Denmark, and Singapore. From Aug. 5th to Oct. 13th, researchers gave LY-CoV555 to 163 of these patients, and a matching placebo to the remaining 151. The researchers reported “no significant difference” in COVID-19’s progression between the two groups after five days.

“Right now, monoclonal antibodies are scarce, so we want to make sure that we’re giving them to patients who they’re most likely to work on,” said Knowlton. “This study indicates that LY-CoV555 may be better used on patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 to keep them out of the hospital, but not patients who are already there.” 

Brown emphasized the necessity of testing multiple antibodies before finding a successful treatment, comparing the search for a COVID-19 antibody to what was learned during the Ebola pandemic.

“We need to remember the lessons we learned with Ebola: we had to test several different antibodies before we found the ones that are effective against a serious virus infection,” Brown said. “I’m optimistic that we will find antibodies that work for our more seriously ill patients — in the next phase of the study we’ll be evaluating more promising antibodies.” 

Experts in intensive care, infectious disease, heart disease and epidemiology within the National Institutes of Health collaborated on this research, according to the news release. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the governments of Denmark, Australia and the UK all contributed to the study.

“This study demonstrates the importance of collaboration among multiple networks to rapidly and efficiently conduct clinical trials,” said James P. Kiley, PhD, director of the Division of Lung Diseases, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Currently, many monoclonal antibody treatments are sitting unused in hospitals across the country, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. Physicians are reluctant to prescribe these treatments until more research has been done.

When the therapies from Eli Lilly and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. were approved for emergency use in November, there was concern there would not be enough to go around. Due to reluctance on the part of providers, only 20 percent of the doses received each week have been prescribed.