Senator Tommy Tuberville joined Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Rick Scott (R-FL), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Mike Braun (R-IN) to introduce the Treatment Restoration for Emergency Antibody Therapeutics (TREAT) Act.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently changed the distribution method to make sure monoclonal antibody treatment is distributed equitably. Prior to the change, almost 70 percent of the monoclonal antibody supply in the U.S. was being used by just seven southern states: Alabama, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia, and Louisiana. These states also have some of the lowest vaccination rates.
“Given this reality, we must work to ensure our supply of these life-saving therapies remains available for all states and territories, not just some,” HHS said in a statement.
Monoclonal antibodies are lab-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses. They were FDA approved in 2020.
Dr. Meredith Chuk, who is leading the COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapeutics team for HHS explained shipments of the treatments climbed from about 10,000 patient courses a week in June to more than 200,000 a week in recent weeks.
Chuk stated, “It was really not sustainable to ensure that we had product across geographies and across time.”
“We had about 70% of our supply going to a small portion of the country, given the surges, and we really want to make sure that we have product and that it can be equitably used,” Chuk added.
The legislation would stop HHS from implementing policies that restrict hospitals from ordering and receiving monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatments directly from manufacturers and distributors. The act would also nullify the Biden Administration’s policy requiring hospitals and other facilities to work through states to receive monoclonal antibody supplies.
Tuberville recently sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra demanding answers and transparency following the abrupt distribution changes. The letter stated, “While I certainly understand that these states may have lower vaccination rates than others, it stands to reason that they would benefit more from a steady and direct supply of mAb treatments to keep hospitalization rates down.”
“We know that monoclonal antibody treatments save lives so it is beyond me why the Biden administration has taken it into their own hands to throttle the supply of this lifesaving treatment. I have yet to receive any answers to my questions for HHS about the reasoning behind these new restrictions, which is cause for concern, especially considering predominately Republican states are being impacted. Across Alabama, medical professionals and folks who got the virus have stressed to me the importance of ensuring this therapeutic is not caught up in partisan politics. I will do everything in my power to make sure that doesn’t happen, and those who need the treatment receive it without delay,” stated Senator Tuberville.
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