(NewsNation Now) — Just last week, U.S. health officials approved emergency use of the first antibody drug to help the immune system fight COVID-19. This new therapy is for patients who have already been diagnosed, but don’t need to be hospitalized. The country is now in week two of the drug being distributed to hospitals nationwide, but the supply is limited.
The drug is called bamlanivimab, and it is developed by the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. CEO David Ricks says it has proven to be a promising development on the frontiers of COVID combat.
“It’s the first ever in the world medicine designed to neutralize COVID, and it was made here in Indiana,” said Ricks. “Taking this drug within the first 10 days of symptoms allowed 70 percent of those people who would have gone to the hospital not to.”
The therapy is a one-time treatment administered through an IV for patients with mild to moderate symptoms who don’t require hospitalization. The supply, however, is limited. Allocation of the doses is currently being controlled by the government, which sends it to the hospitals, states and agencies that need it most.
“We are engaged in a war against this infectious disease,” said Texas Governor Greg Abbott in a Thursday press conference in Lubbock, Texas.
Abbott announced the drug’s arrival in Texas this week. The state received just shy of 9,000 cases—the second highest allotment to the 9,300 in Illinois. The state’s top health leaders tempered praise with reality.
“It’s very, very promising but it’s not magical,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. “It still has to be given to the right group of people at the right time, and over time it will decrease the number of people who need to be in the hospital.”
The treatment has been openly welcomed during a somber week when the US hit 250,000 COVID-related deaths. Nurses and doctors—who aren’t immune to the virus themselves—work around the clock to keep patients alive and bed space open for the next.
“A lot of my coworkers are sick, I just came off quarantine,” said one Texas nurse. “It’s hard, and I felt bad that I could not be here for my team.”
Experts remain hopeful this new drug will keep hospitals healthy and act as a therapeutic bridge to manage the virus until a viable vaccine gets the green light for widespread use.
“Our medicine is for people who are newly diagnosed,” said Ricks. “It won’t protect it from spreading, so we have to stay vigilant as a society, as well.
Pharmaceutical insiders say bamlanivimab is very similar to the therapy President Trump was given last month when he tested positive for COVID-19. At this point, it has arrived in all 50 states, and it has been approved for emergency use only. To win full approval from the FDA, the company will have to submit additional research proving its efficacy in patients.