Ever since then-President Donald Trump received a then-experimental monoclonal antibody treatment of Covid-19 in 2020, Republicans have elevated the antibody cocktail above vaccines and bizarrely promoted the treatment as a symbol of libertarian autonomy.
In a raging pandemic, we should not offer treatments to patients that do not work.
Made in a laboratory and administered by injection to fight Covid, monoclonal antibodies were previously shown to reduce hospitalizations and prevent severe disease. Two of the leading monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown in multiple studies to be ineffective against omicron, which accounts for more than 99 percent of current cases. Those findings prompted the Federal Drug Administration to restrict the use of the treatments.
However, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has vowed to fight the Biden administration to make the treatments available to Floridians. “People have a right to access these treatments, and to revoke it on this basis is just fundamentally wrong and we’re going to fight back,” he said Tuesday at a news conference. If the governor, a Republican, had his way, there would be dozens of monoclonal antibody administration sites across the state, each one staffed with health care workers who are in short supply, each one wasting taxpayer dollars and each one injecting treatments into Americans that not only don’t help them but may even subject them to harmful side effects.
The political tribalism that the pandemic has laid bare has led to certain ineffective treatments for Covid acquiring a symbolic meaning. Ivermectin is no longer a substance to treat parasitic disease but a gateway to purported freedom. Hydroxychloroquine, which has been used to treat malaria, is still being promoted as a silver bullet that creates the foundation for personal choice. Now monoclonal antibodies, which were effective for previous variants of the coronavirus, are similarly being held up as the more freedom-loving response to the pandemic. Vaccines are described as the shackles of a totalitarian state.
We keep seeing variations of the same theme: Drugs and treatments that have proved to be ineffective are described as life-saving alternatives to vaccination, which dangerously gives the public false hope and steers them away from the best protection we have.
Two of the leading monoclonal antibody treatments have been shown in multiple studies to be ineffective against omicron, which accounts for more than 99 percent of current cases.
The goal of any treatment should be to ensure that it is safe and effective. In a raging pandemic, we should not offer treatments to patients that do not work. The American Medical Association, the country’s largest physician organization, issued a statement that lines up with the FDA’s recommendation that supports the limited use of specific monoclonal treatments. Yet to listen to DeSantis and Dr. Joseph Ladapo, his volatile surgeon general, one would think that the FDA had withdrawn or withheld care and all supportive therapies and treatments from the entire state of Florida.
Instead of promoting treatments that work and all the tools available to fight this pandemic, such as vaccines and masks, DeSantis has chosen to distract the focus and attention of front-line workers, scientists and state officials who must deal with the repercussions of his misinformation campaign.
This misinformation is deliberate, part of a deadly strategy that conservatives are using to encourage the public to dismiss as duplicitous peer-reviewed scientific studies, clinical trials and the recommendations of public health agencies and to instead seek medical advice from ambitious politicians, such as DeSantis, and podcast celebrities, such as Joe Rogan, who have never received training in virology, immunology or epidemiology.
The world is tired of Covid, but it is not done with us yet. The irresponsible actions of the governor will not save lives or help people in their time of need. To the contrary. It will only prolong the extended trauma we have experienced over the last two years. We know what works. We know what doesn’t work. Politicians promoting ineffective treatments as the answer are engaged in the deadliest kind of propaganda.