As the United States and world continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, America’s biopharmaceutical research companies continue to do our part in fighting this deadly virus. Decades of scientific innovation have allowed biopharmaceutical researchers to respond quickly and continue to research and develop treatments and vaccines for COVID-19. Importantly, the best strategy to prevent infection against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. Three vaccines are currently available for protection against COVID-19, one of which was recently approved by The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in certain populations. These vaccines are safe and have been administered to over a hundred million Americans, and billions around the world. To date, one antiviral is also currently approved by the FDA for use in patients 12 years of age and older for the treatment of COVID-19, which has the ability to speed recovery time by up to 5 days.
In addition to vaccines and antivirals, monoclonal antibodies are important treatment options against the virus that causes COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies are a type of biologic medicine that play a central role in advancing our ability to treat a range of diseases, including cancer and auto-immune conditions. Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic versions of the body’s antibodies produced in a laboratory and are designed to restore, mimic, inhibit or enhance immune system functions. By building on vast stores of knowledge and information about how these treatments interact with the immune system and can be used to counteract disease, America’s biopharmaceutical researchers have been able to rapidly research and develop monoclonal antibodies that are targeted treatments against the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The National Institutes of Health have put forward treatment guidelines for use of these products.
Decades of biopharmaceutical R&D have enabled the rapid creation and development of targeted monoclonal antibody therapies to treat COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies are authorized to treat COVID-19 early in the course of illness, within ten days of symptom onset, in outpatient settings, and have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by upwards of 70%. Additionally, monoclonal antibodies can be administered proactively after a potential exposure (post-exposure prophylaxis).
To date, three monoclonal antibodies have been authorized for emergency use by the FDA. These monoclonal antibodies mimic the function of our immune system to help fight COVID-19 by blocking the ability of COVID-19 to attach and enter human cells and/or helping to clear cells which are already infected. The virus must enter the cells to reproduce, as it cannot replicate on its own. By preventing it from doing so or clearing cells in which the virus has already entered, these treatments can help slow the spread of a person’s infection, potentially reducing the length and severity of symptoms.
As the number of authorizations continues to increase, supported by biopharmaceutical R&D, patients benefit by having increased treatment options should they become exposed to or infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Importantly, if you are exposed to or infected by COVID-19, talk to your doctor about the best treatment options available – recent reports have cited underutilization due to lack of awareness of these therapies. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Allergy and Infectious Diseases further recently endorsed these treatments by noting, “we recommend strongly that we utilize this [monoclonal antibodies] to its fullest."
While having treatment options available is crucial, vaccines continue to be the most powerful tool at our disposal to prevent infection in the first place. Proper safety precautions, including wearing personal protective equipment, is also a critical tool in our fight against COVID-19.
If you know someone who isn’t vaccinated, ask them if they have any questions or if you can help. Now is the time: do it for yourself and for your community.
To learn more, visit phrma.org/coronavirus.
Andrew Powaleny is Senior Director of Public Affairs at PhRMA and leads the organization's scientific communications. Before joining PhRMA in 2015, he worked in public affairs for a small firm in Washington, DC and served as Deputy Press Secretary for the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Andrew came to Washington, D.C. via Connecticut with a degree from Eastern Connecticut State University where he majored in public policy and government. Andrew is active as a runner and volunteer with the DC Front Runners; most recently serving on its Board of Directors for three years as co-race director. He is also a member of the NLGJA: The Association of LGBTQ Journalists and mentors students through his alumni association with The Fund for American Studies. Andrew is passionate about scientific innovation, especially for mental illness, and his heroes are the men and women of America’s biopharmaceutical research companies.