Florida’s surgeon general has accused the Biden administration of “actively preventing” the distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19, causing an “immediate and life-threatening shortage of treatment options.”
In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra Tuesday, Dr. Joseph Ladapo alleged that HHS had reduced the number of antibodies allocated to the Sunshine State earlier this year “without any advanced notice.”
“The sudden suspension of multiple monoclonal antibody therapy treatments from distribution to Florida removes a health care provider’s ability to decide the best treatment options for their patients in this state,” he wrote. “This shortsightedness is especially evident given that the federal government effectively prohibited states from purchasing these monoclonal antibodies and serving their populations directly.”
According to Ladapo, the reduction went into effect after Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered an increase in monoclonal antibody treatments to combat the Delta variant in August. By mid-September, treatment had been administered to nearly 100,000 people before Washington announced what the state surgeon general called a “dramatic reduction in the number of monoclonal antibodies to be allocated” to Florida.
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Last week, HHS paused distribution of antibody treatments made by Regeneron and Eli Lilly, saying they were unlikely to be as effective against the Omicron variant that is believed to be responsible for fueling the recent surge in COVID-19 cases. It later revised that order Wednesday, saying the pause would only apply to states or territories in regions where Omicron made up at least 80 percent of COVID-19 cases.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that Omicron makes up 59 percent of all COVID cases in the US. However, that estimate increases to 78 percent in a HHS-defined region that includes Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Another monoclonal antibody, GlaxoSmithKline’s Sotrovimab, appears to be more effective against Omicron and continues to be distributed by the federal government. But according to Ladapo, none has been allocated from the federal government to Florida, forcing the DeSantis administration to purchase a supply on its own.
“[L]ack of allocation of this life-saving treatment from the federal government continues to cause another immediate and life-threatening shortage of treatment options … as the Omicron variant spreads throughout the state,” Ladapo said in the letter.
“[T]he federal agencies under your control should not limit our state’s access to any available treatments for COVID-19,” he added before claiming: “The federal government is actively preventing the effective distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments in the US.”
At the close of his letter, Ladapo pointed out comments made by President Biden to the National Governors Association Monday in which he stated that there is “no federal solution” to the coronavirus crisis.
“Therefore, as Surgeon General, I respectfully request that you allow states and healthcare practitioners to provide treatment options that best benefit the communities they serve,” he concluded.