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Eli Lilly wins US$375mln US government order for COVID-19 drug

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Eli Lilly Inc (NYSE:LLY) has received a boost for its antibody-based COVID-19 treatment after the US government placed a US$375mln order for 300,000 doses.

The deal comes just a day after a trial in patients in hospital was halted because the drug, bamlanivimab, had no significant beneficial effect.

However, the US pharma said that trial was for people severely ill with COVID-19 and it still believes that the drug can help stop those with only mild to moderate symptoms from becoming dangerously sick.

In a conference call after third-quarter results yesterday Dan Skovronsky, Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer, said:  “While the results in hospitalized patients were disappointing, we don’t expect this to affect our chances of success in prophylaxis or in early treatment.”

Data in other studies either in combination or as a monotherapy “showed a reduction of hospitalizations and ER visits of greater than 75% across all patients,” he said.

Lilly added that US government had also taken out an option over a further 650,000 doses of the drug and had guaranteed to pick up the tab for people who need treatment.

Both US government orders depend on bamlanivimab receiving regulatory approval and the drug has had a rocky ride through the trial process so far.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) halted its phase III trial two weeks ago on worries over safety and the manufacturing process, though yesterday’s scrapping of the hospital trial was down to efficacy said Eli Lilly.

The company added it would also continue its own studies with the drug, which is being developed in partnership with Canadian company AbCellera.

Eli shares rose 0.5% to US$132.61.

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