Doctors offer differing opinions on DeSantis and monoclonal antibody treatments

Governor Ron DeSantis called out the FDA’s decision to stop the two most common monoclonal antibody treatments, inviting southwest Florida doctors and patients Wednesday to share how monoclonal antibodies recently helped them fight COVID-19

DeSantis said Floridians should be able to decide if they want the treatment with their doctors. But that’s causing a rift with some doctors who say patients shouldn’t take a drug that doesn’t work. 

"To not give anyone the ability to do this at all is really, really a significant problem," said DeSantis.

The governor said the Food and Drug Administration was rash to cut off access to Regeneron and Eli Lilly monoclonal antibodies. Speaking at a roundtable discussion in Miami, doctors and patients told DeSantis how those treatments helped as recently as last week.

"I went home, went about my day and I didn’t feel great. Went to bed and the next morning I woke up and I was like wow I feel better," said Scott Fortney, a Miami realtor and a monoclonal therapy recipient.

One doctors said his patients were doing well with the therapies during the current wave.

"For me to take off the table arsenals that have been extremely important was bothersome to me, and this was the first time that I really felt that I had to speak up," said Dr. Dwight Reynolds, an emergency medicine physician and owner of Centers for Heath Promotion.

One monoclonal treatment, sotrovimab from GlaxoSmithKline, does work, but there’s currently not enough to go around.

"The federal government’s had six, seven, eight months to stockpile this sotrovimab, and they didn’t do it," said DeSantis. "So you haven’t prepared on the sotrovimab. So why not let some of the other folks use these other treatments?"

But not all doctors and scientists side with DeSantis on the usefulness and safety of using revoked drugs.

"To continue to treat patients with an ineffective drug that is known to have adverse side effects is irresponsible and is not within the standard of care for infectious disease practitioners," said Dr. Frederick Southwick, a Gainesville infectious disease specialist.

The FDA said several studies show the Eli Lilly and Regeneron monoclonal antibodies don’t work against omicron, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 99 percent of the people getting COVID-19 right now have the omicron variant. So some doctors and scientists said the focus needs to shift. 

"Remdesivir can be effective. If we can get the GSK monoclonal, that will be effective, and certainly the paxlovid, the Pfizer drug, will be very effective. So those are the key. Focus on what works and stop focusing on what doesn’t work," said Southwick.

The governor has stated the federal government is basing its decision on off one study with not enough data to back up. However, Regeneron itself warned in December about the treatment not working well against omicron based on its own data, and other global studies show the treatments are ineffective for omicron. Hospitals like Tampa General said doctors stopped using those therapies weeks ago because they saw it wasn’t working.