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Florida's Monoclonal Antibody Clinics Close in Blow to Ron DeSantis

Newsweek logo Newsweek 1/25/2022 Darragh Roche
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. DeSantis has criticized the FDA's decision to revoke emergency use authorization for two monoclonal antibody treatments. © Joe Raedle/Getty Images Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference about the opening of a COVID-19 vaccination site at the Hard Rock Stadium on January 06, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. DeSantis has criticized the FDA's decision to revoke emergency use authorization for two monoclonal antibody treatments.

Florida's monoclonal antibody sites are shutting down after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked emergency use authorization for the treatment19.

The Florida Department of Health has said all the state-run sites for administering the antibodies will close following the FDA's decision in what will be seen as a blow to Governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis, a Republican, has been an outspoken advocate of monoclonal antibodies as a COVID treatment and has been pressuring the federal government to provide more of them to his state.

On Monday, the FDA revoked emergency use authorization for two monoclonal antibody treatments, produced by Regeneron and Eli Lilly respectively.

"Because data show these treatments are highly unlikely to be active against the omicron variant, which is circulating at a very high frequency throughout the United States, these treatments are not authorized for use in any U.S. states, territories, and jurisdictions at this time," the FDA said in a statement.

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The Department of Health and Human Services (DHSS) notified state governments that it would halt distribution of the treatments and the Florida Department of Health said state-run sites for administering the antibodies would close.

"Florida disagrees with the decision that blocks access to any available treatments in the absence of clinical evidence. To date, such clinical evidence has not been provided by the United States Food and Drug Administration," the state's Department of Health said in a statement.

Governor DeSantis has been perhaps the nation's strongest advocate for monoclonal antibody treatments and has clashed with the federal government over providing them. He opened new monoclonal antibody treatment sites in Florida just last week.

The Republican slammed the FDA's decision in a statement on Monday.

"Without a shred of clinical data to support this action, Biden has forced trained medical professionals to choose between treating their patients or breaking the law," DeSantis said.

"This indefensible edict takes treatment out of the hands of medical professionals and will cost some Americans their lives. There are real-world implications to Biden's medical authoritarianism—Americans' access to treatments is now subject to the whims of a failing president," the governor said.

The statement from the governor's office also noted that, due to the FDA's decision, "the appointments for more than 2,000 Floridians to receive this treatment were canceled on January 25, 2022, alone."

DeSantis has been highly critical of the federal government's approach to monoclonal antibodies, including the decision to limit the number of the therapeutics available to Florida.

Federal authorities took control of the distribution of the antibodies in September and prevented states buying them directly from manufacturers— a move DeSantis criticized.

"They've always been playing games on this," the governor said in Jacksonville on Monday.

Critics have accused DeSantis of downplaying COVID-19 vaccines in favor of monoclonal antibody treatments. DeSantis' office has denied that is the case.

"With Omicron, you know, the vaccinations are not preventing infection," DeSantis said at a press conference earlier this month. He said at the time that it hadn't been "definitely shown at all" that monoclonal antibody treatment was ineffective against the Omicron variant.

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