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VERIFY: Claim that the federal government is rationing monoclonal antibodies is true

HHS announced in September there is a shortage of monoclonal antibodies in the U.S. and that the federal government is changing its distribution process.

Monoclonal antibodies are in high demand. But is there a shortage?

Several people emailed the VERIFY team concerned after hearing that the federal government is limiting those resources.

The FDA approved monoclonal antibody treatment last November for use in high-risk COVID patients. The lab-generated immune system proteins can help trigger a healthy immune response against COVID-19 infection and reduce hospital stays or death in high-risk patients.

Several people reached out to the VERIFY team after hearing the government started reducing the supply.

Kathy, Liz, Sandra, and a few others asked, “Is there a shortage of monoclonal antibodies in the U.S. such that the federal government needs to ration the distribution?”

We have two sources for this: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The federal agency issued a Public Health Emergency on September 13 announcing, in part, that an “increased incidence of the delta variant has caused a substantial surge in the utilization of monoclonal antibody drugs.” Because of that, the HHS has “updated the distribution process … from a direct ordering process to a state/territory-coordinated system.” The HHS now determines the weekly amount of mAb products each state receives based on COVID case burden and mAb use.

The Texas DSHS alerted monoclonal antibody providers in mid-September of HHS’s warning that “the national supply has considerably decreased, and states should expect lower amounts of therapeutics available for shipment in the coming weeks.”

That week, Texas got a combined amount of 23,640 antibody doses.

The number of doses distributed has gone down significantly since then. The week of October 4, Texas is getting 18,540. That is 5,100 fewer doses than three weeks ago.

So, we can verify that that claim that there is a shortage of monoclonal antibodies in the U.S. and that the federal government is rationing distribution is true.

There is some good news. Antibody therapy manufacturer, Regeneron, announced that the U.S. government has agreed to buy 1.4 million more doses. That brings the total ordered to nearly 3 million. The company is set to make those doses available between now and the end of January 2022.