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Fauci promotes monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 that Gov. DeSantis has touted for weeks

Stefani Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is right about early monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 saving lives, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.

The White House's top health adviser on COVID-19 told reporters Tuesday that people sick with COVID-19 can reduce their risk of hospitalization and death by as much as 85% if they receive monoclonal antibody treatments in the early stages of their illness.

"It is important to emphasize that this must be done early in infection and not wait, of course, until a person is sick enough to be hospitalized," Fauci said during a news conference on COVID-19.

"That's when you get the best effect. And again, being an underutilized intervention, we want people out there, including physicians as well as potential patients, to realize the advantage of this very effective way of treating early infection."

The Food and Drug Administration in May issued an emergency use authorization for monoclonal antibody therapies to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children older than 12. The agency said that evidence suggested the treatments may be beneficial for keeping high-risk patients with COVID-19 out of the hospital.

For weeks now, DeSantis has strongly promoted early treatment for COVID-19 using the lab-made antibodies and has opened multiple sites in his state where sick people can receive free treatment before they need to be hospitalized. The governor has also urged Floridians to get vaccinated against COVID-19 to reduce their risk of serious illness and avoid the need for treatment in the first place.

But DeSantis has been maligned for promoting this treatment. An Associated Press report published last week insinuated that the governor has been promoting the treatment, which is manufactured by Regeneron, to benefit one of his top donors who is heavily invested in the company. The governor strongly pushed back against the story, accusing the AP of publishing a "partisan smear" and discouraging people from seeking "life-saving treatment."

Others have criticized the governor over the cost of the drug, which at $1,000 per Regeneron treatment is more expensive than a $25 vaccine dose. But DeSantis has pointed out that vaccines won't help people who are already infected with COVID-19 and need treatment. And Fauci agrees that monoclonal antibody treatments are both effective and currently underutilized .

"Bottom line is this is a very effective intervention for COVID-19. It is underutilized, and we recommend strongly that we utilize this to its fullest," Fauci said Tuesday.

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