*CVS has been chosen by the HHS to administer coronavirus antibody drugs to elderly COVID-19 patients at their homes and at nursing homes
*The company can now give care home residents with coronavirus infusions of Eli Lilly’s treatment, which was given emergency approval on November 9
*CVS is also one of two pharmacy giants that will vaccinate nursing home patients when a COVID-19 shot is approved
*The pilot program will be rolled out by 900 nurses and tech who will start giving out 1,000 doses of the IV therapy on Thursday
*Patients will who qualify as at risk of severe infection will get the drug for free
CVS Health Corp said on Wednesday it would administer Eli Lilly’s recently authorized antibody treatment to COVID-19 patients in their homes and in long-term care facilities through a U.S. government-backed pilot project.
A unit of CVS will start giving a total of 1,000 doses of the intravenous therapy, similar to the treatment given to U.S. President Donald Trump when he had COVID-19, from Thursday in seven cities over three months.
Initial supply of the drug, which was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use on November 9, will go to patients at risk of severe infections but who are not hospitalized, with no out-of-pocket cost.
The pharmacy chain said it would expand the service to more markets as supply of the drug increases. The pilot is starting in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Tampa.
It comes as American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living revealed that more than 16,000 people living in care homes were infected with coronavirus and more than 2,000 died the week of November 15 – numbers rivalling the spring peak.
The U.S. government has the option to extend the pilot to another 1,000 doses for another three months. The drug can currently be administered on an outpatient basis.
The drug gained U.S. authorization last month, and the government has purchased 300,000 doses.
Lilly expects to make up to one million doses of bamlanivimab by the end of 2020, and further increase supply in the first quarter of 2021.
Lilly has previously said it will begin shipping bamlanivimab through drug distributor AmerisourceBergen, but regional allocations of the drug will be determined by the federal government.
The U.S. government last month partnered with regional pharmacy chains and independent community pharmacies to increase access to COVID-19 vaccines whenever they are made available. (Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)