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Doctors say monoclonal antibody treatment is ‘the answer’ to preventing hospitalizations

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:48 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Monoclonal antibody infusions have been used for months in Montgomery, but with COVID-19 case numbers growing, there’s a renewed push for the treatment to prevent further crowding of the city’s hospitals.

At a press conference last week, State Health Officer Scott Harris was asked about the best treatment available for people positive for COVID-19 wanting to avoid hospitalization, and without hesitation, Harris said, “they need to get monoclonal antibodies.”

“That is the answer, that is what people need to do,” Harris went on to say.

Monoclonal antibody treatments are an infusion of laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off COVID-19.

Casirivimab and imdevimab are monoclonal antibodies that are specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells.

Infusions have been found to be effective in shortening the length of illness and preventing potential hospitalization if given within the first 10 days of symptoms.

The infusion process takes a quick 21 minutes with an hour monitoring period.

“It’s the best treatment we have to keep you out of the hospital. It keeps people out of the hospital 70% of the time,” said Montgomery-area pulmonologist Dr. David Thrasher. “It’s really a great treatment and everybody needs to ask for it.”

Infusions have been available at both Jackson Hospital and Baptist South in Montgomery since November 2020, but the difference now is that there is a new drug being used that makes the treatment available to more people.

“What we have now is Regeneron. That’s the antibody that President (Donald) Trump got and it’s pretty much, I say, if you can walk and talk and live in Alabama, you probably qualify,” Thrasher said.

The Regeneron product has received the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). The Regeneron cocktail (casirivimab and imdevimab) is best known as the antibody treatment given to Trump when it was still an investigational drug after he contracted the virus last October.

Before, a monoclonal antibody named bamlanivimab was being used.

“The problem with that is it was being restricted to people 65 years or older, and had a very narrow list of qualifications,” Thrasher said.

Between Montgomery’s two clinics, Thrasher said there are approximately 60 patients being treated with the infusions a day.

“If we can get personnel in there, we can treat even more. My goal is to get us to 100 a day,” Thrasher said.

“If you have symptoms, get tested, get tested quick and call your provider. Ask them, ‘Do I qualify for the monoclonal antibody infusion?’ If he’s not sure or says no, call Jackson Hospital or Baptist Hospital and ask for a second opinion because, again, most people are going to qualify for this, and this is the best thing we have,” Thrasher said.

If you test positive for COVID-19, doctors recommend you contact your primary care physician and ask for the infusion.

You can find a list of qualifications for the monoclonal antibody treatment on the Baptist Health website.

“This is the solution. We can keep people out of the hospital if we can get them treated and we get them treated early,” Thrasher said.

According to Baptist Health, there is no charge for the medication itself, but there is an administration fee that is billed to the patient’s insurance company if they have insurance.

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