Biden slashes distribution of monoclonal antibodies to red states, Marco Rubio reacts: 'This reeks of politics'

The Biden administration is cutting back the supply of monoclonal antibodies, a COVID-19 treatment featuring a lab-engineered protein, in several red states. There has been a backlash to the reduction of the potentially lifesaving treatment, especially in Florida, where monoclonal antibodies are being used the most.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced on Monday that the agency is taking over the distribution of monoclonal antibodies to states. Previously, the states ordered therapeutics from the federal government.

"HHS will determine the amount of product each state and territory receives on a weekly basis. State and territorial health departments will subsequently identify sites that will receive product and how much," an HHS spokesman told the Washington Post. "This system will help maintain equitable distribution, both geographically and temporally, across the country — providing states and territories with consistent, fairly-distributed supply over the coming weeks."

The policy shift will affect seven red states the most: Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Louisiana, which have accounted for 70% of monoclonal antibodies orders, CNN reported.

"Given this reality, we must work to ensure our supply of these life-saving therapies remains available for all states and territories, not just some," an HHS spokesperson said.

Florida has received the most doses of monoclonal antibodies, followed by Texas. Florida received 30,950 doses this week, after the Sunshine State requested 72,000 doses, according to the governor's office. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis established 25 clinics that offer monoclonal antibody treatments; the first was opened on Aug. 12 in Jacksonville. The clinics have administered 90,000 monoclonal antibody doses, according to DeSantis.

DeSantis slammed President Joe Biden for the "abrupt" cut in monoclonal antibodies.

"We are very, very concerned with the Biden administration and the HHS's recent, abrupt, sudden announcement that they are going to dramatically cut the number of monoclonal antibodies that are going to be sent to the state of Florida," DeSantis said during a press conference on Thursday. "There's going to be a huge disruption and patients are going to suffer as a result of this."

"We've been thrown a major curveball here with a really huge cut," DeSantis added. "We're going to make sure we leave no stone unturned. Whoever needs a treatment, we're going to work like hell to get them the treatment."

"Many thousands would have ended up in the hospital, and of course, some of them would have ended up dying, so it has saved lives here in the state of Florida," DeSantis said of the monoclonal antibody treatment.

"The bottom line is this: COVID is a treatable illness. And we have to never go back to the days where particularly high-risk people get infected and were told to just go home and hope they don't get deathly ill," DeSantis declared.

Sen. Marco Rubio blasted the Biden administration for reducing Florida's supply of COVID-19 treatments.

"Antibody treatments aren't a substitute for vaccines But they have prevented thousands of hospitalizations including in breakthrough cases," Rubio wrote on Twitter. "Now in a move that reeks of partisan payback against states like Florida, the Biden administration is rationing these treatments."

"This reeks of politics. This is the Biden administration punishing Florida," Sen. Marco Rubio said in a video. "They're saying to states like Florida, 'Oh yeah, you're not gonna have mandates? You're not gonna do what we want you to do? Well then guess what, we're gonna cut off your antibody treatments and your access to them.'"

Every day it’s something new with these people in the White House The decision to ration antibody treatments prov…

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) 1631811556.0

The Biden administration has made monoclonal antibody treatments a priority in its "Path out of the Pandemic" plan.

"Monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 70% for unvaccinated people at risk of developing severe disease. As hospital systems experience increased COVID-19 cases, many have identified monoclonal antibody treatment as a key tool to improve health outcomes, prevent hospitalizations and reduce the strain on overburdened hospitals," the plan states.

DeSantis noted that 52% of COVID-19 patients who were treated at the Broward monoclonal antibody treatment site had already been vaccinated, and 69% of those treated at the site with monoclonal antibodies were over 65 years old and vaccinated.

With the supply of monoclonal antibodies being cut by more than half by the Biden administration, DeSantis said he would attempt to secure a new monoclonal antibody treatment from another pharmaceutical company – GlaxoSmithKline.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals announced on Tuesday that the U.S. government had purchased 1.4 million additional doses of its COVID-19 antibody cocktail, which brings the total bought to nearly 3 million doses. Regeneron will supply the upcoming doses between now and the end of January 2022. The monoclonal antibody treatment costs $2,100 per dose, according to Regeneron, which adds up to revenues of $2.9 billion.

DeSantis accuses Associated Press of deterring people from 'life-saving treatment' with 'botched and discredited' hit piece

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday sent a blistering letter to Associated Press CEO Daisy Veerasingham accusing the news outlet of publishing a "partisan smear" against him and possibly discouraging COVID-19 positive Floridians from seeking "life-saving treatment."

The governor sent the letter in response to a complaint he received from the AP about his press secretary Christina Pushaw's criticisms of a reporter who wrote a story linking DeSantis' advocacy for a COVID antibody drug to one of his top donors who is heavily invested in the company that makes the drug.

"I assumed your letter was to notify me that you were issuing a retraction of the partisan smear piece you published last week. Instead, you had the temerity to complain about the deserved blowback that your botched and discredited attempt to concoct a political narrative has received," DeSantis wrote.

"This ploy will not work to divert attention from the fact that the Associated Press published a false narrative that will lead some to decline effective treatment for COVID infections," he added.

Last week, AP journalist Brendan Farrington reported that Citadel, a Chicago-based hedge fund, has invested $15.9 million in Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc., the company that manufactures the monoclonal antibody treatment heavily promoted by DeSantis. Citadel CEO Ken Griffin donated $10.75 million to a political committee that supports DeSantis, and Farrington's article implies that DeSantis is promoting Regeneron's drug over COVID-19 vaccines to benefit his top donor.

Pushaw commented for the AP's story, observing that Citadel holds far more shares of Pfizer and Moderna than Regeneron.

Critics were also quick to point out that DeSantis is promoting monoclonal antibody treatments right along with the Biden administration, that Griffin also donated to President Joe Biden's inauguration committee, and that the governor has also strongly endorsed vaccination against COVID-19 as life-saving.

The AP did not accuse Biden of benefitting these very same donors by promoting the vaccine.

After the AP published the story, DeSantis' left-wing critics falsely claimed that he had been downplaying COVID vaccines to benefit his donor.

Pushaw blasted the AP article on Twitter, calling it "cheap political innuendo" and calling out Farrington for shifting blame for the article's headline to his "boss' boss." In a now-deleted tweet, she retweeted the AP story and told her followers to "drag them."

The AP in turn reported Pushaw to Twitter, accusing her of harassing Farrington, and she was suspended for 12 hours.

Veerasingham then wrote to DeSantis asking him to stop Pushaw's "harassing behavior," accusing her of threatening Farrington and putting him in danger by criticizing his reporting.

But DeSantis pulled no punches in his forceful response, rejecting Veerasingham's demands.

"The purpose of the headline and the framing of the story was to smear me by insinuating that Florida's push to expand awareness of and access to monoclonal antibody treatments was done to boost Regeneron's profit, rather than to simply help Floridians in need. Indeed, as the federal government long ago bought the entire stock of Regeneron's COVID monoclonal treatment, it is not even possible as a concept," wrote DeSantis.

"The AP produced zero evidence that Florida's efforts are being undertaken for any reason other than to help Floridians recover from COVID," he continued. "This story is a baseless conspiracy theory."

The governor told the AP that he stands by the work of his staff, including Pushaw.

"That the AP has received vigorous pushback is something that should be expected given the brazenness of your political attack and the fact that your false narrative will cost lives. You cannot recklessly smear your political opponents and then expect to be immune from criticism. This is especially true when the effect of your false narrative jeopardizes the health of those who could otherwise benefit from treatment with monoclonal antibodies," he wrote.

"You succeeded in publishing a misleading, clickbait headline about one of your political opponents, but at the expense of deterring individuals infected with COVID from seeking life-saving treatment, which will cost lives," DeSantis concluded

"Was it worth it?"