WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) — In a letter sent late Tuesday night, Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo is accusing the Biden Administration of "actively preventing the effective distribution of monoclonal antibody treatments in the U.S" by pausing shipments of COVID-19 antibody treatments manufactured by two major drug companies.
The letter, obtained by CBS12 News, was addressed to Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, and accuses the federal government of beginning a "sudden suspension of multiple monoclonal antibody therapy treatments."
Last week, the Biden Administration announced it would begin to reduce shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments made by the companies Regeneron and Eli Lilly, because the drugs have not been proven to be effective against the new Omicron variant.
Studies show a third monoclonal antibody treatment, Sotrovimab from the company Glaxosmithkline, does work against Omicron and is still being supplied by the federal government.
But, Florida's Surgeon General argues the state still needs shipments of the other two treatments to be used against existing cases of the Delta Variant. Roughly 20 percent of the state's cases are still Delta cases, according to the Florida Department of Health.
"Florida is a large, diverse state with one of the highest percentages of seniors in the U.S., and we must empower healthcare providers to make decisions that will save the lives of Americans everywhere without the dictates imposed by the federal government," writes Surgeon General Ladapo in the letter.
The letter goes on to reference comments President Biden made on Monday, saying control of the pandemic should be handled at the state level. The President also vowed continued federal support.
"President Biden recently stated there is no federal solution to COVID-19, and solving this pandemic will happen at the state level. Therefore, as Surgeon General, I respectfully request that you allow states and healthcare practitioners to provide treatment options that best benefit the communities they know and serve," the letter continues.
Florida's letter comes after similar comments were made by Governor Greg Abbot (R-Texas), who accused the Biden Administration of "hoarding the anti-body therapeutic drugs."
"We have never stopped allocating or shipping COVID-19 therapeutics to Florida. With regard to monoclonal antibody treatments, the federal government has allocated about 22,000 doses in just the past two weeks (11,050 doses last week and 10,576 doses this week). That’s in addition to the approximately 28,000 doses of product that they have on hand from their previous orders," a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human services said in a statement to CBS 12 News, responding to the state's letter. "In other words, Florida should have 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 would encourage leaders to continue their efforts to increase vaccinations, which can prevent infection in the first place, are much less costly than these treatments, and are the best tool available to protect Americans."
In a meeting with a group of governors on Monday, President Biden said that his administration is facing the new surge in cases by expanding testing - including at home tests - and ramping up efforts to encourage people to receive the booster dose of the vaccine.
"My message to the governors is simple. If you need something, say something. We're going to have your back any way we can. Last week we took steps to bolster support for you with number one, more capacity to get shots in more places we're vaccinators more times for folks to get vaccinated or get a booster shot. And we've added appointments for booster shots, adding hours getting more convenient to get a booster every day," President Biden said.
Meanwhile, as the State of Florida asks the federal government for more monoclonal antibody doses, some large hospitals in the state are moving away from the treatment. Boca Raton Regional Hospital recently announced it would suspend using antibody treatments made by Regeneron and Eli Lilly, saying there is no proof they work against Omicron cases.
Healthcare workers continue to treat patients using Sotrovimab, but supplies are limited.
This week the State of Florida received 2,580 of Sotrovimab from the federal government, according to HHS data. That's compared to roughly 4,000 doses of the Eli Lilly drug and 3,900 doses of Regeneron the state received in the same week.
This story has been updated with a statement from an HHS spokesperson, received on Wednesday.