But some Republicans are already using the Biden administration’s new, common sense decision to pour gasoline on their baseless federal overreach fights.
The Food and Drug Administration removed two monoclonal antibody therapies from its list of approved treatments for COVID-19 this week, at least temporarily. Citing clinical data, the FDA said in a statement that it has found two of the treatments “are highly unlikely to be active against the omicron variant, which is circulating at a very high frequency throughout the United States.” HHS sent out a letter to state officials this week, alerting them that the federal government would stop handing out the treatments made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly to states for now, according to the Washington Post which obtained a copy of the letter.
These kinds of therapies are designed to boost the body’s immune system response to better fight a COVID-19 infection. But the contagious Omicron variant is a highly mutated version of COVID-19 and the Regeneron and Eli Lilly treatments have not been effective against combatting the virus in recent weeks, according to the FDA.
It is only the two treatments that won’t be distributed for now and Patrizia Cavazzoni, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation stressed in his statement the move could be temporary. If new variants emerge that the therapies are effective in combatting, they’ll be distributed to states again, he said. And there are still several other types of similar medications that have been effective against the new variant, including sotrovimab and antiviral pills produced by Pfizer, and others.
But those disclaimers mean little to some Republicans — one in particular — who are predictably outraged by the FDA’s decision to halt federal distribution of the drugs. A handful of Republican governors have been boosting these antibody therapy treatments for some time, typically as some sort of anti-vax alternative to inoculation.
And as one of most flirtatiously anti-vaccine governors in the country, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has been one of the most vocal proponents of this type of treatment (and his aversion to vaccination in general has landed him in hot water with the former president). The medication has been an effective treatments for COVID-19 and the Delta variant in many cases, but federal officials have routinely warned they’re not a replacement for getting the shot.
But DeSantis has a significant stake in this fight, for several reasons. He’s not only quietly campaigning for 2024 on the coat tails of his popularity as the nation’s most anti-COVID-mitigation, anti-vaccine mandate governor, he’s also invested state resources in opening up monoclonal antibody treatment centers in Florida. Even before the FDA announced its decision Monday, his office put out a statement questioning studies that show the treatments haven’t been effective against Omicron.
In the wake of the announcement, DeSantis put out a rather misleading tweet, claiming the Biden administration made the decision “without a shred of clinical data.”
Trumpy lap-dog Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) retweeted it.
But DeSantis’ devotion to the treatments over encouraging vaccination is politically motivated as well. As DeSantis hyped the therapies and opened new antibody therapy clinics across the state this summer, reports surfaced revealing that one of DeSantis’ top political donors is the CEO of the Chicago hedge fund Citadel, which holds more than $15 million in shares in Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc., the Associated Press reported at the time. Citing filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, AP reported that Citadel CEO Ken Griffin had donated more than $10 million to a political fund that boosts DeSantis.
And this all came out as photos surfaced of patients severely sick with COVID-19 sleeping on the floors of Florida’s monoclonal antibody treatment centers waiting for the therapy instead of going to the hospital in some cases — adding a grim layer to the governor’s reported political motivation for boosting the treatment over the shot.
The Best Of TPM Today
Here’s what you should read this evening:
Yesterday’s Most Read Story
Newt Threatens Jail for Jan 6th Investigators — Josh Marshall
What We Are Reading
Inside Peloton’s month from hell — Ellen Thomas, Kylie Robison, and Katie Warren
The Democratic Pivot — David Dayen
Correction: This article originally misidentified Citadel as a donor to DeSantis. Citadel’s CEO is the donor.