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Why Eli Lilly's COVID Antibody Therapy Is Making a Comeback

By Keith Speights and Brian Orelli, PhD – Sep 11, 2021 at 6:01AM

Key Points

  • The U.S. stopped the distribution of Lilly's COVID-19 antibody therapy in June because it wasn't effective against the beta and gamma coronavirus variants.
  • However, Lilly's therapy is effective against the delta variant.
  • With the increased prevalence of the delta variant, the U.S. is once again allowing Lilly's antibody therapy to be used as a treatment in many states.

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There's a one-word answer: delta.

In June, the U.S. government halted the distribution of Eli Lilly's (LLY 0.98%) COVID-19 antibody cocktail. The problem was that the therapy didn't seem to be effective against emerging coronavirus variants.

But now the U.S. is allowing Lilly's antibody combo to be used once again in many states. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Sept. 1, 2021, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss why Lilly's COVID antibody therapy is making a comeback.

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Keith Speights: Let's switch off of the vaccine stories, Brian, and switch to some COVID therapy news. At one point it seemed as if Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody therapy was practically dead in the water. Distribution had been halted across the U.S. But now, though, it looks like there's still life for this therapy.

Why is Lilly's COVID-19 antibody therapy seeming to be making a comeback now?

Brian Orelli: They stopped distribution because it didn't look like the antibody therapy was helping against the beta and gamma variants, but it worked against the original strain that it was developed, the original coronavirus, and it also appears to work against the delta variant.

With the rise of the delta variant, there are now 22 states where the resistant variants are less than 5% of the total infections. The FDA is allowing Eli Lilly to use the treatment in those specific states.

This is good news for the company, which will get back some of the sales that it lost when the distribution was pulled. Sales were over $800 million in the first quarter, before the pause. Obviously, it won't get all that back because we had a big surge right then, that obviously drove sales higher, and then it's not going to get used in every state, so you'd have to cut the potential sales back quite a bit.

A few $100 million is going to benefit Eli Lilly some, but it's not going to move their revenue needle all that much because Eli Lilly is a fairly large pharmaceutical company.

Speights: Of course, there's always the question about the long term with any of the COVID-19 vaccines or therapies, Lilly has some other growth drivers that probably investors should place more of a focus on, I would think, than its COVID antibody therapies.

Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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