Canada secures 26K doses of coronavirus antibody treatment – here’s how it works

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Trudeau announces deal to obtain therapeutic drug from Eli Lilly'
Coronavirus: Trudeau announces deal to obtain therapeutic drug from Eli Lilly
WATCH: Trudeau announces deal to obtain therapeutic drug from Eli Lilly – Nov 24, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday said Canada has secured up to 26,000 doses of bamlanivimab, a therapeutic drug used for coronavirus treatment, manufactured by Eli Lilly.

“This treatment was developed in partnership with Vancouver’s AbCellera Biologics and is part of our support for researchers right here at home who are working around the clock to find a treatment for COVID-19,” he said.

Eli Lilly said it will supply Canada with the drug over a three-month period between December 2020 and February 2021, for US$32.5 million, according to a press release.

Trudeau said there are also options to secure “thousands” of more doses of the drug.

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On Friday, Health Canada announced it granted interim authorization to Eli Lilly’s antibody drug for treating COVID-19 in patients who are not hospitalized, but are at risk of serious illness because of their age or other conditions.

This is the first coronavirus antibody treatment to be approved in Canada, according to Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand.

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“This treatment has the potential to help patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are at risk of progressing to severe symptoms,” Anand said Tuesday at a media conference.

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The news comes weeks after the treatment, bamlanivimab, was given U.S. emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.

What is bamlanivimab?

Bamlanivimab is a monoclonal antibody that is specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, designed to block the virus’ attachment to and entry into human cells, according to the FDA.

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The therapy is still undergoing additional testing to establish its safety and effectiveness.

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Health Canada’s interim authorization of the drug was based on a Phase 2 clinical study in patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19. The patients treated with bamlanivimab showed reduced viral load and rates of symptoms and hospitalization.

According to Health Canada, the single antibody treatment has been approved for use in adults and children aged 12 or older with mild to moderate coronavirus infections.

Although Eli Lilly’s studies of the antibody drug are continuing, early results suggest it may help clear the coronavirus sooner and possibly cut hospitalizations in people with mild to moderate COVID-19.

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A study of it in hospitalized patients was stopped when independent monitors saw the drug did not seem to be helping in that situation.

The antibody therapy was first discovered by the Vancouver company AbCellera Biologics. It was identified from a blood sample taken from one of the first U.S. patients who recovered from COVID-19, according to a press release.

Bamlanivimab was then developed by Eli Lilly in less than three months, the press release stated.

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“This authorization in Canada furthers our goal of making bamlanivimab available to patients who need it around the world and is evidence of the strong collaboration between industry and governments to get COVID-19 medicines to people as quickly as possible,” Eli Lilly’s chairman and CEO David A. Ricks said in the press release.

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“We are proud that this treatment, which was developed in partnership with the Canadian biotech company AbCellera, will soon be available to help people in Canada combat this pandemic.”

The pharmaceutical company said it anticipates manufacturing up to one million doses of bamlanivimab by the end of 2020, for use around the world through early next year.

So far Canada and the U.S. are the only countries to approve the drug, according to a press release.

The Phase 1 study of the drug in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is complete. The Phase 2 study in people recently diagnosed with COVID-19 in outpatient care is ongoing, while the Phase 3 study of bamlanivimab for the prevention of COVID-19 in residents and staff at long-term care facilities is also ongoing.

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