According to the Food and Drug Administration, ethnic minorities trump white people when prioritizing the distribution of scarce COVID-19 therapeutics. Now some states are prioritizing race over patients suffering from high risk conditions.
Until the emergence of the omicron variant, three antibody therapeutics were being used to treat COVID-19. In December, pharmaceutical manufacturers Regeneron and Eli Lilly announced that their treatments were not effective against the country’s new dominant strain.
That leaves GlaxoSmithKline’s sotrovimab monoclonal antibody, but it’s in short supply, so only high risk patients will be eligible to receive it, and according to an FDA fact sheet, “non-white” people fall under that category.
The treatment is approved for patients twelve and over that are at considered high risk, if they suffer from conditions including older age, pregnancy, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity amongst others.
However, the guidelines state that “Other medical conditions or factors (for example, race or ethnicity) may also place individual patients at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19.”
A few states are using the government’s advice to equate race to a high risk condition. In Democratic New York, “Non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor, as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death,” according to the state’s Department of Health.
Minnesota issued guidance last month that stated race and ethnicity alone, “apart from other underlying health conditions, may be considered in determining eligibility” to receive therapeutics.
They stated that it’s “ethically appropriate to consider race and ethnicity” when data shows high risk of poor outcomes for minorities, and “risk cannot be adequately addressed by determining eligibility based on underlying health conditions (perhaps due to underdiagnosis of health conditions that elevate risk of poor COVID-19 outcomes in these populations).”
Utah has taken it a step further and created a point system which elevates “non-white” people two points higher on a “COVID-19 risk score” when determining eligibility.
According to their ranking scale, “non-White race or Hispanic/Latinx ethnicity” are entitled to receive antibodies over high risk patients suffering from conditions including hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, chronic kidney disease, chronic pulmonary disease, chronic liver disease, and more.
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