Speed Reads

Monoclonal Fixation

Florida's Ron DeSantis is very upset the FDA canceled 2 antibody cocktails that don't work against Omicron

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday withdrew its emergency use authorization for two monoclonal antibody treatments shown to be ineffective against COVID-19's Omicron variant. With Omicron now making up more than 99 percent of U.S. coronavirus infections, the FDA said, the Regeneron and Eli Lilly antibody cocktails are "highly unlikely" to help COVID patients. 

"The FDA announcement was expected, as both drugmakers have said for weeks that the treatments are less able to target Omicron because of its mutations," The Associated Press reports. But Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who has made costly, federally supplied monoclonal antibody treatments a central part of his state's COVID response, complained about the FDA's "reckless" decision. 

"People have a right to access these treatments, and to revoke it on this basis is just fundamentally wrong and we're going to fight back," DeSantis said in a press conference Tuesday. He did not specify how he plans to fight the decision. The FDA has the sole authority to regulate drugs in the U.S.

The DeSantis administration said Monday night it will close five new state-run monoclonal antibody treatment centers it had announced last week. DeSantis blamed "Biden's medical authoritarianism," and in a tweet Tuesday morning he claimed there isn't a "shred of clinical data" to support the FDA's decision.

It wasn't just DeSantis critics who found this response puzzling. "I think blue-staters can go overboard on the DeSantis critiques, and I'm a longstanding FDA critic, but this is ludicrous," said libertarian commentator Megan McArdle. "You don't pump non-working drugs into human bodies, at great expense, in order to own the libs."

"Let's just take a step back here just to realize how crazy this is," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday afternoon. "What the FDA is making clear is that these treatments, the ones they are fighting over, the ones the governor is fighting over, do not work against Omicron and they have side effects."

Psaki said the Biden administration has provided Florida with 71,000 courses of antiretrovirals, not to mention ample preventative vaccines. Health and Human Services Department spokesman Ian Sams tweeted Monday night that "this week, we're providing Florida more than 34,000 additional doses of COVID treatments that actually do work — the most doses of any state besides California and Texas." That includes 3,200 courses of sotrovimab, a GlaxoSmithKline monoclonal antibody treatment that does work against Omicron.