US in talks to order 500,000 more doses of AstraZeneca Covid cocktail

Order will push total US purchase to 1.2 million doses of coronavirus antibody drug

The US government is in talks with AstraZeneca to order 500,000 doses of its coronavirus antibody drug, used by vulnerable people before exposure to the virus to prevent severe illness.

Jeff Zients, US president Joe Biden’s Covid-19 response co-ordinator, said on Wednesday that the administration and AstraZeneca were “in the process of ordering” the doses, which are aimed at immunocompromised people.

The new order will push the total US purchase to 1.2 million doses, all due by the end of March, AstraZeneca said in a statement.

“The federal government was instrumental in the research and development of this product,” Mr Zients said.


“Bottom line, we’ve acted aggressively to support and secure a diverse portfolio of Covid treatments.”

Doctors are looking for drugs that can help treat the coronavirus, especially the highly transmissible Omicron variant that’s sweeping the globe.

AstraZeneca’s antibody combination, authorised last month in the US, was found to be highly effective in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in at-risk people, and is effective against Omicron.

Results in June from the company’s first study found the antibody combination was only 33 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in people who had been exposed to the virus, throwing the deal into question.

Since then, two trials showed the cocktail was highly effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in at-risk people and also halved the risk of developing severe illness or death from mild or moderate Covid-19.

Antibody drugs can be used to supplement vaccines for people who haven’t mounted a strong response to the shots or to protect those who couldn’t be immunised.

Key patient groups who may be eligible for such cocktails include cancer patients or those with weakened immune systems. One issue for antibody development has been administration, with some requiring more complex intravenous delivery.

That obstacle seems to be moving, with Astra’s antibody cocktail given using two injections. AstraZeneca was little changed in trading in London Wednesday. – Bloomberg