‘Bad for patients:’ Florida Gov. DeSantis responds to closure of state’s monoclonal sites

DeSantis talks about efficacy of monoclonal antibody treatment

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks in Sarasota on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

MIAMI, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis discussed the recent decision made to cancel state-run monoclonal sites at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in Miami.

The governor, alongside Florida Department of Health Secretary Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, highlighted the pros of the two monoclonal antibody treatments that The Food and Drug Administration ruled on Monday to be “highly unlikely to be active against the omicron variant” of COVID-19.

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The event at the Miami Dade College-North campus comes a day after DeSantis sounded off on the FDA’s decision to revoke the emergency use authorization for these two treatments, REGEN-COV, called Regeneron after the company that makes it, and bamlanivimab and etesevimab, made by Eli Lilly.

“We had thousands of Floridians that had appointments scheduled for yesterday and today and tomorrow,” DeSantis said at a Wednesday news briefing. “And they were told that those appointments could no longer be honored because the medication was no longer allowed to be administered in the United States... it’s a decision that I think is bad for patients.”

The FDA announced the decision to revise the authorizations Monday for patients who have the omicron variant of COVID-19.

The decision follows accumulating research that shows the use of the above treatments isn’t as effective against omicron, something Regeneron similarly said a month prior.

“Obviously, as these variants change, that’s something that’s clearly... the vaccinations are not preventing infection against omicron the way they were touted with some of the other variants... but our view was, first of all, you don’t know when somebody comes in, necessarily, whether they have the omicron infection or the delta infection, and we know definitively this stuff is great against the delta variant and so why would you take that out of play?” DeSantis said.

DeSantis spoke with three separate individuals about their experiences receiving or signing up to receive the monoclonal treatments, including a Miami realtor who said he woke up the day after receiving the treatment with his symptoms gone.

“Anything was better than what I was feeling because the congestion in my sinuses was overbearing and the headache and the sore throat and it really was just it was more than uncomfortable... And literally Thursday morning I woke up and I’m like breathe. I can literally breathe out of both sides of my nose,” the man said.

The authorizations now specifically limit the treatments’ usage to patients likely to have been infected by or exposed to a different COVID variant. However, the FDA said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that more than 99% of COVID-19 cases accounted for in the U.S. are linked to the omicron variant.

This comes after state Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo came under criticism for evading questions on the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and masking policies earlier Wednesday.

Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, issued the following statement Wednesday on the instatement of Ladapo:

“Dr. Ladapo is impeccably qualified to be our State Surgeon General and has served with distinction since he was appointed last Fall. It’s unfortunate that Democrats in the Senate, who could have learned a lot by listening to Dr. Ladapo (a Harvard educated physician), instead decided to pull a childish stunt. Regardless of petty political games like this, Dr. Ladapo will continue to work every day for the good of all Floridians.”