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UPDATE 2-U.S. to buy at least 100,000 doses of Lilly's COVID-19 antibody therapy

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Feb 26 (Reuters) - Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co said on Friday the U.S. government has agreed to buy at least 100,000 doses of its newly authorized COVID-19 dual antibody cocktail for $210 million, with doses to be delivered through March-end.

The U.S. government will have the option to purchase up to an additional 1.1 million doses through Nov. 25, the company said.

Lilly said it would begin shipping these doses immediately.

The therapy contains two antibodies bamlanivimab and etesevimab and had got U.S. emergency use authorization earlier this month.

Like rival Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc's dual antibody therapy REGN-COV2, Lilly's combo has been authorized for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients who are at high risk of progressing to severe disease or hospitalization.

Lilly's therapy helped cut the risk of hospitalization and death in COVID-19 patients by 70%, according to early late-stage trial data put out in January.

Despite the government's efforts to encourage use of the treatments to help keep people out of hospitals, the therapies have seen weak demand.

Healthcare systems have said they have been slow to ramp up use of the antibodies due to extra levels of complexity during the pandemic, including requirements for quick diagnosis times and the need to isolate infectious patients.

United States had already agreed to buy 1.45 million doses of bamlanivimab alone, Lilly said, adding that 1 million of doses have already been delivered and 450,000 additional doses will be delivered by March-end. (Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)