AstraZeneca asks FDA to authorize COVID antibody treatment to prevent illness

Posted at 3:14 PM, Oct 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-06 15:14:04-04

(WXYZ) — AstraZeneca has asked the FDA to approve a first-of-its-kind antibody drug they developed to prevent COVID-19. 

AstraZeneca’s antibody treatment so far is being called AZD7442. It’s administered as a shot and consists of laboratory-made antibodies that linger in the body and help fight off infections. Now, how effective is it? Well, according to clinical trials, the antibody drug reduced the risk of developing any symptoms for COVID-19 by 77%. And AstraZeneca also said that this treatment boosts immunity for up to one year. Now, if the FDA does grant emergency use authorization, it would be the first long-acting preventative treatment here in the US. Because other approved antibody treatments, like Regeneron and Eli Lilly & Company, are typically used to treat people who are already infected with the virus. So they’re not preventative.

Is this new antibody treatment for everyone?  And could it be used as an alternative to vaccines? The answer to both those questions is no. First of all, AstraZeneca’s antibody treatment will likely be limited to people who are vulnerable to the virus and more likely to develop severe disease. So folks with chronic conditions and weaker immune systems. In AstraZeneca’s late-stage trial, at least 75% of the participants had suppressed immune systems due to medical conditions like cancer and lupus, including some who had a lower immune response after being vaccinated. Which, by the way, we know is not uncommon. Research has shown those with compromised immune systems can struggle to develop enough protection from vaccination. For instance, a recent study looked at the risk prediction of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in people who had been vaccinated. And the researchers found some cause-specific predictors that could lead to a poor outcome.

For instance:

- Kidney transplant had an 8-fold increase

- Sickle cell disease was 7-fold

- Chemotherapy was 4-fold and

- HIV or liver disease was about a 3-fold increase.

Now, before you think vaccines aren’t helping enough, I want to point out that the number of deaths and hospital admissions for vaccinated people in this study was very low, less than 4% of patients.

But getting back to AstraZeneca’s antibody treatment, it should not be used as an alternative to vaccines, that is not what it’s intended for. This treatment would likely work in conjunction with our vaccines. Having said that, it’s up to the FDA and the CDC to decide who this treatment would work best for and when they should get it. I’m happy that scientists are coming up with effective drugs to treat COVID-19. But please don’t see these as a replacement for vaccines. Vaccines are the best way to end this pandemic and keep people from being hospitalized or dying from COVID.