(Reuters) – The U.S. Government has awarded an initial $375 million contract to drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co LLY.N to secure 300,000 doses of its potential experimental COVID-19 antibody treatment, a drug that has been touted by U.S. President Donald Trump.
Lilly will start delivering the treatment within two months of receiving an emergency use authorization from the U.S. health regulator, the company said.
The U.S. government also has the option to purchase up to an additional 650,000 vials for $812.5 million, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement.
While vaccines are seen critical to ending the pandemic, governments are increasingly looking at effective treatment options to slow the spread of the disease and kick-start economic activity.
The company submitted a request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month for emergency use authorization of the drug to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 patients.
The U.S. government has committed that patients will have no out-of-pocket costs for the medicine, although healthcare facilities may charge a fee for the product’s administration, Lilly said.
The antibody therapy is similar to a drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals REGN.O that was given to Trump during his bout with COVID-19.
The treatments belong to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies that are manufactured copies of antibodies created by the body to fight against an infection. Lilly’s antibody was identified from a blood sample taken from one of the first U.S. patients who recovered from COVID-19.
Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty