Eli Lilly Antibody Cuts Covid-19 Risk Up to 80% in Nursing Home Study

Eli Lilly & Co.’s antibody therapy reduced nursing home residents’ risk of symptomatic Covid-19 by as much as 80% when used preventively in a study.

The infused treatment, cleared for use in high-risk Covid patients with mild-to-moderate disease who haven’t been hospitalized, also significantly reduced the risk of symptomatic disease in nursing home workers, according to a statement from Lilly on Thursday.

The U.S. is prioritizing Covid-19 vaccines from Moderna Inc., Pfizer Inc. and other manufacturers for elderly people and health-care workers. The results suggest that the treatment Lilly developed with Canadian biotech AbCellera Biologics Inc., called bamlanivimab, may also play a role in the effort to keep nursing home patients and staff from developing severe, potentially lethal illness.

Lilly will work with U.S. regulators to explore expanding the experimental drug’s emergency-use authorization to include prevention of the spread Covid-19 in long-term care facilities, Chief Scientific Officer Daniel Skovronsky said.

“This is an urgent situation,” he said in an interview. “Where there’s an outbreak in nursing homes and people haven’t yet received the vaccine, this could be a potential way to protect them before they get it.”

Lilly, based in Indianapolis, rose as much as 1.5% at 9:32 a.m. in New York, while AbCellera gained as much as 1.8%.

Vulnerable Population

With more than 400,000 deaths since the outset of the pandemic, the U.S. is the world leader in Covid mortality. Nursing home residents represent about a quarter of those fatalities, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. While vaccines have been shown to prevent as much as 95% of symptomatic cases, the antibody may be useful in unvaccinated people, or those who aren’t eligible for shots.

Lilly and the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases launched a study in August to see if bamlanivimab would slow spread in long-term care facilities where the virus had already been detected. To carry out the study, Lilly created a fleet of mobile clinics -- RVs retrofitted with infusion materials and tools -- to bring the treatment to nursing homes.

The late-stage study, called BLAZE-2, followed 299 residents and 666 staff who tested negative after a recently diagnosed case in their facilities. Staff were initially enrolled to encourage participation among hesitant nursing home residents, Skovronsky said.

After eight weeks, those who got an infusion of the drug were less likely to develop Covid-19 than those who received a placebo, according to the statement.

The residents’ 80% reduction in risk of contracting Covid-19 symptoms reduction was seen when treated participants were compared with others in their facility who got a placebo, Lilly said. Four Covid-attributed deaths occurred during the study among those who received a placebo, and none among those who were treated.

“There’s potential in patients who are too frail to get a vaccine or don’t qualify” because of other illnesses, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Sam Fazeli in a note on Thursday. The drug’s additional use may already be factored into Lilly’s $1 billion to $2 billion sales guidance for 2021, he said.

Full results from the trial will ultimately be submitted to a medical journal, Lilly said.

“To be able to offer something here that could help turn that tide would be great,” Skovronsky said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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