DeSantis pressures Biden admin to let states purchase monoclonal antibody treatments

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for the Biden administration to allow his state to obtain more monoclonal antibody treatments as it encounters the omicron variant of  COVID-19.

"We're past the point now where we're able to get it directly from any of these companies," DeSantis said during a press conference on Monday.

"The federal government has cornered the entire market. They basically took control of the supply in September."

DeSantis noted that the administration had stopped sending both Regeneron and Eli Lily monoclonal antibody treatments. The department later said it would allow states to order those products from HHS.

The governor's press conference came nearly a week after his surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, sent U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra a letter requesting the federal government restore the distribution of monoclonal antibodies treatments to the state.

"The federal government is actively preventing the effective distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments in the U.S.," Ladapo wrote. "The sudden suspension of multiple monoclonal antibody therapy treatments from distribution to Florida removes a health care provider's ability to decide the best treatment options for their patients in this state."

As Ladapo's letter noted, HHS said in September that it would determine the state-by-state distribution of certain drugs. An official reportedly said the move would "help maintain equitable distribution, both geographically and temporally, across the country."

Monday's press conference comes as both Florida and New York saw a record jump in COVID-19 cases. 

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported more than 75,900 new cases of COVID-19 in Florida.

That tally raised the 7-day average daily to 42,600, which is twice as high as it was at the peak of this summer’s surge when the delta variant fueled a surge of infections in the state.

The White House referred Fox News to HHS, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Like DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott asked Biden for help with monoclonal antibody treatments. "Testing sites, additional medical staff, and continued shipments of therapeutics from the federal government will help us continue to save lives and mitigate the spread of COVID-19," Abbott said.

Last week, HHS touted the administration's progress in bringing two new over-the-counter COVID-19 tests to market – which is part of a broader effort by the administration to increase access to testing.

Biden has come under fire for saying there was no federal solution to the pandemic despite pushing multiple initiatives from the executive branch. In December, the White House touted its deployment of federal personnel to help dozens of states.

"To date, we have deployed over 2,000 personnel, including 1,300 clinical providers; surged over 3,200 ventilators, ambulances and other critical supplies; and shipped over 2.3 million courses of lifesaving monoclonal antibody treatment," the White House said on Dec. 2

"As we face the potential of a new variant and rising cases during the winter months, today, the President will make clear that federal government will once again be prepared to help."

An HHS spokesperson told Fox News on Monday: "The federal government has and will continue to supply Florida with therapeutics that can help improve patient outcomes, reduce stress on healthcare facilities, and save lives. We never stopped allocating or shipping COVID-19 therapeutics to Florida." 

"With regard to monoclonal antibody treatments, in the past three weeks, the federal government has allocated about 30,000 courses to Florida. That’s in addition to the approximately 33, 500 courses of product that Florida had on hand (as of 12/31/21) from their previous orders. We continue to distribute COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatments – including REGEN-COV, bamlanivimab/etesevimab, sotrovimab, and evusheld – on a regular basis at no cost to the state, and we encourage Florida to use these products as authorized by the FDA and in accordance with recent clinical guidelines issued by NIH."

 "In other words, Florida should have a strong supply of product on hand – and more than most other states. We will continue to work with Florida to supply them with federal resources to support the on-the-ground response, and we encourage leaders to continue their efforts to increase vaccinations, which can prevent infection in the first place, are much less costly than the therapeutics, and are the best tool available to protect Americans."

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.