TALLAHASSEE — On Thursday, Florida officials gave a price tag to the state’s monoclonal antibody program for this year: $244 million in federal money.
That’s how much it’s expected to cost to set up and operate 25 state-run monoclonal antibody sites. Once 2021 turns to 2022, state officials say they could need another $634.3 million in order to meet the demand for various antiviral treatments, including other monoclonal antibody therapies.
The COVID-19 treatments will ultimately be paid for by reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. On Thursday, a state official asked a panel of lawmakers charged with overseeing the state’s budget for the authority to draw down those federal funds.
The $244.8 million budget request would pay for the monoclonal antibody treatment program launched by the state in early August. Gov. Ron DeSantis has claimed that the program saved thousands of Floridians from hospitalization during the worst COVID-19 surge on record. However, the Department of Health has not released detailed figures on how many Floridians have gotten the treatment, despite months of inquiries from the Times/Herald. As he started pushing monoclonal antibodies, DeSantis placed less emphasis on coronavirus vaccines, which are widely available, free, safe and effective at preventing the worst effects of the disease.
Lawmakers were asked to set aside another $634.3 million in case the state ends up needing more medications for a future coronavirus surge.
“This authority should give us enough head room should there be another spike, should we need to increase the antivirals and use something besides Regeneron,” said Mark Mahoney, a financial management administrator at the Florida Division of Emergency Management, on Thursday.
Mahoney said the Department of Health arrived at the $634.3 million estimate by projecting the needs of the state’s monoclonal antibody treatment sites during a future potential surge. GlaxoSmithKline’s monoclonal treatment, sotrovimab, costs $2,100 per dose. A dose of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment costs the same amount. However, the federal government owns the supply of that treatment, and they offer it to states for free. Florida would only need the additional money if the state were to run out of Regeneron’s treatments. (The monoclonal antibody treatments are offered at the state sites at no cost to the patient.)
The state could also use that extra money to buy any future pharmaceuticals that are eligible for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That means Florida could theoretically buy doses of antiviral pills like molnupiravir, which the United Kingdom approved on Thursday, once the U.S. government gives that treatment the green light.
DeSantis has already used some federal funds to buy additional monoclonal antibody doses. In September, when the federal government cut back Florida’s supply of the Regeneron treatment, DeSantis moved to acquire 3,000 doses of sotrovimab. At the time, DeSantis said he made the move to avoid any monoclonal antibody shortages in the state.
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But by late September, when he made that move, COVID-19 cases had already been falling for weeks. The monoclonal antibody shortages never materialized. On Wednesday, the federal government reported that Florida’s hospitals had used just 627 doses of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment in the past week — the lowest figure since the federal government started tracking the statistic in July.
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