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Eli Lilly Rises on New Trial to Treat Covid in High-Risk Patients

Eli Lilly shares were higher after the drugmaker and UnitedHealth partnered on a trial of bamlanivimab to treat coronavirus in high-risk patients.

Eli Lilly  (LLY) - Get Eli Lilly and Company Report shares were higher Friday after the drugmaker partnered with healthcare giant UnitedHealth's  (UNH) - Get UnitedHealth Group Incorporated Report Optum Labs to conduct a trial of bamlanivimab to treat coronavirus in high-risk patients.

Shares of the Indianapolis company at last check rose 2.6% to $147.85. Shares of UnitedHealth, Minnetonka, Minn., rose 0.8% to $350.09.

Bamlanivimab recently received emergency-use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to treat coronavirus infections that are mild to moderate but -- due to underlying conditions in specific patients -- could progress to severe and require the patients to be hospitalized.

"The study will identify and treat a large, diverse population of high-risk individuals for covid-19 with bamlanivimab under real-world conditions with a goal of reducing the severity of illness and hospitalizations," both companies said in a statement.

"It will draw upon both UnitedHealthcare health benefits business as well as its Optum health services business to detect and treat high-risk symptomatic patients who test positive for covid-19."

"While bamlanivimab is authorized for emergency use based on the efficacy and safety data accumulated to date, larger pragmatic studies in diverse populations can help us further understand the efficacy and safety of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies in real world settings," said Daniel Skovronsky, a physician who is senior vice president and chief scientific officer at parent Lilly and president of Lilly Research Labs.

Lilly and UnitedHealth will monitor this antibody therapy using a care delivery model that will allow rapid diagnosis and in-home treatment of patients at a high risk of complication.

Delivering bamlanivimab to patients through home infusions enables them to stay quarantined and at home, minimizing the potential spread of covid-19.

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UnitedHealthcare's Medicare Advantage members who meet the FDA-authorized criteria for treatment will be invited to volunteer for the study.

The study will enroll up to 500,000 people, with at least 5,000 people expected to receive bamlanivimab therapy.

"Treatments like bamlanivimab offer a crucial early intervention against covid-19 until vaccines are widely available," said Ken Ehlert, chief scientific officer at UnitedHealth and chief executive of OptumLabs. 

People enrolled in the study will be asked to download UnitedHealth's Optum app. They need to do a self-administered coronavirus test, and if their results are positive they will receive a home infusion of bamlanivimab from an Optum Infusion Pharmacy.

Last month, Lilly received emergency clearance from the FDA for bamlanivimab.

Lilly had said it will begin shipping bamlanivimab immediately to AmerisourceBergen,  (ABC) - Get AmerisourceBergen Corporation Report, which will distribute it as directed by the U.S. government's allocation program.

Separately, J.P. Morgan analyst Chris Schott affirmed an overweight rating and $200 price target on Lilly, the Fly reported. He raised his earnings estimates for the drugmaker.

The analyst's move comes before the company's guidance on Dec. 15 and initial Phase 3 data on tirzepatide, a treatment for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, a liver disease, the Fly reported. The analyst expects a strong 2021 for Lilly, the Fly reported.