U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott say the federal government should not decide which states can access Regeneron treatment supplies. Now, the Florida Republicans are introducing legislation prohibiting such rationing.
The duo joined a group of GOP senators to introduce the Treatment Restoration for Emergency Antibody Therapeutics (TREAT) Act. If passed, the bill will stop the Health and Human Services Department from restricting hospitals and other facilities from ordering monoclonal antibody treatments directly from manufacturers to meet local demand.
The move comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis and other governors promote the early treatment for those who come down with COVID-19. Earlier this month, President Joe Biden’s administration began rationing MAB supplies, cutting shipments to Florida in half.
“This abrupt change in policy from the Biden Administration is nothing but an attempt to punish Florida,” Rubio, a Miami Republican, said. “We cannot let vindictive, politically motivated actions by this Administration jeopardize the health and safety of Floridians and others. My bill would bring back fairness by allowing hospitals and other appropriate healthcare facilities to directly access this life-saving treatment from manufacturers.”
Other senators supporting the bill include Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
Scott, a Naples Republican, said the treatments help to save lives.
“As our nation works to fully recover from and end the coronavirus pandemic, we must ensure that Americans have access to all options for treatment and prevention, including the COVID-19 vaccine and proven monoclonal antibody treatments,” Scott said.
“The Biden administration’s recent decision to implement restrictions on monoclonal antibody doses — making it harder for Floridians to receive this life-saving treatment — is unacceptable and unethical.”
The DeSantis administration in Florida this week purchased 3,000 doses of GlaxoSmithKline’s monoclonal antibody treatment after the Biden administration reduced the federal supply of Regeneron’s version. DeSantis has heavily promoted use of monoclonal antibodies, opening pop-up clinics around the state in addition to what’s available at hospitals, but he said Monday the reduction in supply may result in the closure of some sites.
The federal government intends to further cut Florida’s shipments, from 27,850 doses this week to 25,692 doses next week.
The White House, for its part, has denied any political motivation behind its distribution plan.
“We are increasing our distribution this month by 50%,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a Sept. 15 press briefing. “In early August, we were distributing an average of 100,000 doses per week. Now we’re shipping an average of 150,000 doses per week … But over the last month, given the rise in cases due to the delta variant and the lower number of vaccination rates in some of these states — like Florida, like Texas — just seven states are making up 70% of the orders.”
Scott said the availability should be based purely on need.
“When lives are at stake, no resources should be intentionally held back by the Biden administration through dangerous political games,” Scott said. “I’m proud to join Senator Rubio in introducing the TREAT Act to make sure Florida receives effective COVID-19 treatments. I won’t accept anything less.”