CVS Health was selected as part of a pilot project by Operation Warp Speed to administer a treatment recently authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. But evidence around the new monoclonal antibody treatment, called bamlanivimab, is mixed, and supply is limited.
The drug, developed by Eli Lilly, is intended to keep patients from getting severely ill. The FDA gave it an emergency use authorization in early November, based on data from 465 patients with mild or moderate Covid-19 symptoms that showed 3% who received the treatment were hospitalized, compared to 10% who received a placebo. In its Covid-19 guidelines panel, the National Institutes of Health said there was insufficient data to recommend for or against using bamlanivimab.
There are also logistical challenges, including the fact that the drug is administered through an hour-long infusion. Patients must be observed for another hour after administration to make sure there aren’t any side effects.
CVS’ infusion business, Coram, said it would begin administering 1,000 doses of the therapy at long-term care facilities and at patients’ homes. It will start in seven cities, including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Tampa. After the pilot, it plans to expand to additional communities, as drug supply increases. For patients to be eligible, they must be within 10 days of symptom onset and be at high risk for severe disease.
The Department of Health and Human Services has leaned heavily on retailers as part of its strategy for administering Covid-19 tests. It has also turned to pharmacy chains for plans to distribute a vaccine — after one is authorized — to nursing homes and the general public.
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