U.S., Lilly strike deal for potential COVID-19 antibody drug

The U.S. government reached a deal for nearly one million doses of drugmaker Eli Lilly’s experimental COVID-19 antibody treatment, which may cost over $1 billion.

The pharma giant said on Wednesday once it receives an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, it will start delivering 300,000 doses of the treatment within two months.

The U.S. government will pay $375 million for that first delivery. After that, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the government has an option to buy an additional 650,000 vials for more than $800 million.

The agreement with the U.S. came days after the company said the drug failed to show benefits in hospitalized patients. But the company said it remains confident its treatment can prevent the progression of disease when it is started earlier.

There are also questions about Eli Lilly’s facilities: Reuters reported that U.S. drug inspectors uncovered serious quality control problems at an Eli Lilly plant that is ramping up to make its antibody therapy. The drugmaker said the issues raised by U.S. regulators after the inspection do not effect the quality or safety of the treatment.

Eli Lilly applied for an FDA emergency use authorization of the drug to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 patients earlier this month.