MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A new antibody treatment being used in Montgomery is being credited with keeping hundreds of COVID-19 patients from being hospitalized.
Monoclonal antibody treatments are an infusion of laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off COVID-19.
“They actually prevent the virus from getting into the cell,” said Montgomery-area pulmonologist Dr. David Thrasher.
While not a cure for COVID-19, monoclonal antibody infusions have been found to be effective in shortening the length of illness and preventing potential hospitalization if given during the early stages of infection.
“It’s the best treatment we have, period,” Thrasher said.
The monoclonal antibody, named bamlanivimab, was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration late last year.
Thrasher said some of the first ever monoclonal antibody infusions took place in Montgomery.
“I gave the 16th and 17th dose, the first doses in the world, outside of clinical trials,” Thrasher said. “So Alabama has got its fair share of this, and I think that’s helped us a lot.”
Since then, Thrasher said roughly 1,000 patients have received the treatment in Montgomery, and that it has been a “game-changer.”
“The studies have shown that it decreases hospitalizations by 70%,” Thrasher said. “If we had these thousand patients in the hospital in December and January we would have been overwhelmed.”
Thrasher said he had two patients be hospitalized but later recover after receiving the treatment.
“Both of these people perhaps would not have made it without this infusion,” Thrasher said.
Despite this being an antibody treatment, Thrasher said there has not been any concern about it getting in the way of our body’s own immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine or future infections of the virus.
“This antibody is gone in 60 days, it’s gone from your system,” Thrasher said.
The monoclonal antibody treatment is being offered at both Baptist Health and Jackson hospitals, free of charge.
The infusion is given within 10 days of when symptoms start.
The treatment itself takes 16 minutes, according to Thrasher. There is a one hour observation period after the infusion.
There is, however, limited supply of the treatment available, which is why it is only being given to those who have tested positive for the virus and fall into high-risk categories.
A few include:
⦁ chronic kidney disease
⦁ immunosuppressive disease
⦁ age 65 years or older
⦁ age 55 years or older and have cardiovascular disease, hypertension, chronic pulmonary disease (COPD) or other chronic respiratory disease
Baptist Health has a full list of those who qualify for the treatment on their website.
With the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, Thrasher said the monoclonal antibody treatment is showing to be effective after drug company Eli Lilly got FDA approval to add another monoclonal antibody, etesevimab, into the treatment process.
The safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy for use in the treatment of COVID-19 continues to be evaluated.