Transcript: David Ricks on “Face the Nation”

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The following is a transcript of an interview with David Ricks, chairman and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company, that aired Sunday, December 20, 2020, on “Face the Nation.”


MARGARET BRENNAN: As we learned this week that while taxpayers have purchased about a billion dollars of it to treat patients, only a fraction of it is actually being used and we’re in the throes of a crisis. Why isn’t this being prescribed more?

ELI LILLY CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER DAVID RICKS: Well, it’s- it’s disappointing news that we heard as well. I can tell you that across the country we’ve shipped and distributed broadly the monoclonal antibody from Lilly. And then in our clinical studies, it reduces the risk of hos- hospitalization by about 70%. So, it’s very important that those eligible talk to their doctor about getting this therapy. What we have seen, though, is differences in how different states and different hospital systems have chosen to act. Some really good cases where it’s quite easy when your doctor recommends is to get the infusion. It’s an infusion. It takes about two hours. And we’ve seen cases where there’s been little or no action. So, it’s important people know to ask their doctor if they’re a candidate for this therapy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And when you say infusion, you mean someone has to go and get hooked up to an IV to treat it?

RICKS: Correct, yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But I want to follow up on something you just said, because it’s similar to what the Trump administration has said over the course of this week, which seems to put the onus on the patient to tell their doctor what to prescribe them. That’s not usually the doctor-patient relationship. If we accept that’s the premise and it’s our job to tell the doctor to prescribe us, how soon are they supposed to ask for it?

RICKS: Well, I’m not suggesting it’s only the patient’s responsibility. So, let me come back to that. But the drug is indicated in the first 10 days after a positive PCR-test, a confirmation of COVID-19. And within that 10-day period, you could receive the infusion. And it’s been shown to reduce symptoms, reduce the viral load and keep people out of the hospital. But we’re also communicating with- with hospital systems and states because this is an emergency use authorization, unlike other approvals for drugs as a manufacturer, it’s- it’s not our role to go promote this.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

RICKS: So, we’re working through government channels to do that. And as I said, it’s quite variable. There’s some great examples, but there’s also some areas of the country where it doesn’t seem to be available when it actually is.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. And it’s sitting on the shelves we know because–

RICKS: Yeah.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –Operation Warp Speed has said there about 65,000 doses that go out each week, five to 20% of it’s actually being used. And this is- these are therapeutics that American taxpayers already bought. So–

RICKS: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –if the states aren’t using it, or certain states aren’t using it, should the federal government claw it back and give it to those who are actually using it?

RICKS: Well, every week we’re shipping more. So, the way it’s working now is we’re being directed by the Warp Speed team to distribute through a third party distributor to those facilities that are using it. And so we’re replenishing those supplies now. And there’s many good examples in Houston. In the state of Maryland, they’ve done a great job. In South Dakota, even after their very difficult fall, they’ve distributed enormous quantity of what they’ve received. So, we’re acting at the government’s direction here and supplies are being replenished. I don’t think there’s an attempt to bring the supplies back from hospitals. Rather, what we’d like hospitals to do is use what they were sent.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

RICKS: Set up an infusion clinic where patients with COVID-19 can receive this. And I think we all know, coast to coast, this is not a time to leave- leave that important tool on the shelf.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

RICKS: This is the time to put it to work against the patients who are suffering.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right. But what- but what you’re hinting at there is one of these challenges we’re seeing again and again is the disconnect between what the federal government is delivering and what the states do when they receive it. And we know hospitals are overwhelmed. So, this is a big public health policy issue that needs to be addressed. I’m wondering if you think what you’re seeing happen with therapeutics is an indicator of what’s going to happen with the vaccine. Are states also not going to be able to distribute it?

RICKS: Well, I’m- I’m not an expert in that, but I can say this is a complicated problem that needs focus and attention from governors and hospital system executives. That seems similar to the vaccination challenge. Here we’ll have- we have about a million doses we’ll have produced this year, getting those into the hands of hospitals by mid-January. On the vaccine side, we need hundreds of millions administered. So, those operational challenges, we’re doing something new for the first time.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

RICKS: It’s not simple. It needs focus and attention. And- and from the hospital on up.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Absolutely. And- and at the time of a crisis, quick action. Are you going to require your own workforce to get a vaccination?

RICKS: We’ve discussed this, I don’t think there’s going to be a problem at a science based company like Eli Lilly to convince people to get vaccinated. In fact, I think there’ll be quite a line. It’s not our turn yet. It’s important that frontline health care workers and the elderly receive the vaccine first. We totally support that. We do have manufacturing sites that make unique pharmaceuticals that if they can’t operate, patients can’t receive those medicines. So, we’re working with the states we operate in to see where in the priority we fall. And then we’ll do a strong internal communication about the benefits, that’s already started actually, of vaccination. And I suspect most people who work at Eli Lilly will get vaccinated, but it will be their choice. One of the considerations here, MARGARET, is it’s an emergency use authorization. We don’t have the normal, full–

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

RICKS: –set of data. And if an employee of ours is concerned, we’ll respect that concern.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Well, good luck to you. Thank you for your time. Thank you. And we’ll be right back to talk about that.

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