“This is the first time that we are seeing something of this magnitude,” said Dr Skovronsky.
The antibody drug did not produce significant side effects, he said. The patients received a single infusion, providing antibodies which should last for about a month.
There is good news regarding a vaccine in these results. If the monoclonal antibodies hadn’t worked, then the finding may have cast doubt on the idea that the virus can be stopped with antibodies.
On the other hand, the results – if proven to be correct – do not guarantee that a vaccine will work. Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody is a temporary treatment; a vaccine is designed to elicit long-lasting natural antibodies and therefore immunity.
Like other companies, Eli Lilly manufactured large quantities of his drug – 100,000 doses – in the hope that it would prove effective.
The company will discuss its data with the Food and Drug Administration, Dr Skovronsky said, as well as the possibility of obtaining emergency use authorization allowing Eli Lilly to market the drug.
Monoclonal antibodies are expensive to make and carry high price tags, often thousands of dollars per dose. But if the results hold, the public will be reassured that there is something doctors can do to prevent serious illness, Dr Cohen said.