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UPDATE 3-Regeneron expects continuing demand for its COVID-19 therapy

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(Adds CEO comment, background, share price)

By Mrinalika Roy and Manojna Maddipatla

May 6 (Reuters) - Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Thursday and said it expects demand for its COVID-19 antibody therapy to hold up even as vaccination efforts across the United States intensify.

The comments were in contrast to those by rival Eli Lilly and Co, which last month trimmed its 2021 profit target as demand for Lilly's COVID-19 antibody therapies took a hit due to vaccinations.

Lilly's antibody therapies and Regeneron's REGEN-COV have been authorized in the U.S. for treating non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients, and the companies have signed supply agreements with the U.S. government worth millions.

Demand for these therapies, however, has been lackluster due to the complexities involved in their administration.

Still, Regeneron said its therapy brought in U.S. sales of $262 million in the first quarter, ahead of estimates of $255 million, according to brokerage Piper Sandler.

"Despite high rates of vaccination, it's estimated that tens of millions will remain unvaccinated in the U.S. alone," Regeneron Chief Executive Officer Leonard Schleifer said.

Regeneron is also pursuing U.S. authorization of a lower dose of its antibody cocktail and for its use as a preventive medicine. It has reported positive data for both from clinical studies.

The drugmaker said it expects a decision from the U.S. health regulator on the authorization of the lower 1.2 g dose over the next several weeks.

Given the success of the lower dose based on trial data, REGEN-COV's sales will remain strong even during the second half of 2021, after Regeneron's supply contract with the United States is filled in the second quarter, Cowen analyst Yaron Werber said.

Regeneron's shares rose 2% to $490.90 after it beat estimates for first-quarter profit, helped in part by a recovery in demand for its physician-administered eye drug Eylea. (Reporting by Mrinalika Roy and Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)