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COVID-19 Prevention Drug Trial Begins In Bloomington-Normal

Heritage/Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly will partner with nursing home operator Heritage Operations Group in a clinical trial to prevent COVID-19 after exposure.

A health care company based in Bloomington is part of a new clinical trial of a drug to prevent COVID-19.

Heritage Operations Group owns more than 50 long-term care facilities in Illinois. The nursing home operator has joined with Eli Lilly on a drug that is based on COVID-19 antibodies.

“Until now health care has played defense against this disease. We’ve only been able to offer palliative care to control the symptoms. This drug has the promise of allowing us to take the offense and actually prevent infection,” said Heritage President and CEO Ben Hart.

Hart said once a person is identified with COVID-19 in a Heritage facility, Eli Lilly will come and administer an intravenous infusion to other residents and staff at the facility. It is a double-blind test, and Hart said only Eli Lilly will know which people receive the drug and which will get a placebo.

He cautioned the antibody drug would not be a vaccine that has long-lasting effects, but researchers hope it will be effective in preventing symptoms from appearing in those exposed to the coronavirus.

“This partnership with Eli Lilly offers our residents and employees a sense of hope, and gives us an opportunity to be on the offensive against this terrible disease, which has disproportionately impacted the elderly population,” said Hart.

“COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on nursing home residents. We’re working as fast as we can to create medicines that might stop the spread of the virus to these vulnerable individuals,” said Dr. Daniel Sovronsky, M.D., Ph.D., said Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories. Eli Lilly’s study of this antibody drug is experimental, and participation by residents and staff is voluntary.

Lille said it needs more than 2,500 test subjects who have not tested positive in the long-term care sector of the trial, said Hart. Lilly has the same process set up in other states, Hart said.

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WGLT Senior Reporter Charlie Schlenker has spent more than three award-winning decades in radio. He lives in Normal with his family.