HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- A Henrico clinic considers the monoclonal antibody treatment a “Hail Mary pass” to treat COVID-19 positive patients and are requesting additional doses of the drug as cases surge.
Annette Bennett operates Infusion Solutions on Forest Avenue. Her medical team administers monoclonal antibodies to patients with the coronavirus who aren’t sick enough to be admitted to the hospital or those who are high risk and exposed to the disease.
“The case managers are so slammed right now in the ERs,” Bennett said. “They are handing the patients our flier saying, ‘You’re not sick enough to be admitted. Please go call this number and go treated.’”
Last week, the federal government took over the ordering process after seeing a surge in states using the drug to treat COVID-19, especially in areas with low vaccination rates, according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
HHS said in a press release they also aim to ensure the supply doesn’t run out for future patients.
Bennett expressed relief on Wednesday after receiving dozens of additional doses of the medicine than they originally were told by the Virginia Department of Health.
At first, Infusion Solutions received about 130 doses of the drug with the ability to administer more than 200 doses to patients.
“We finally received a shipment, so we are actually able to go call the 75 patients that we have waiting and get them in for treatment today,” she explained. “It’s been encouraging, and it’s been hopeful because we’ve seen patients who were severe, bounce back and go to their normal routine in 48 hours.”
Studies show 70 to 80% of patients who received the monoclonal antibodies didn’t experience severe illness, according to Dr. Brooke Rossheim, VDH’s Public Health Physician Specialist.
Rossheim has also taken the lead in handling the state’s allocation of the medicine.
Last week, Virginia received about 1,500 doses of the drug, but he said the state will receive more than double that next week.
Nationwide, the federal government dispersed more than 176,000 doses of the drug across the country with states like Texas, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia receiving most of the supply.
“We did have to cut some places a little bit, but the good part about it we didn’t have to make any really substantial cuts,” Rossheim stated. “I think this will be enough to meet the need that we have.”
As of Wednesday, more than 2,100 Virginians were being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals. Since the pandemic started, there have been nearly 36,000 hospitalizations.
Infusion Solutions Medical Director Dr. Patrick Oliver, who is an emergency department certified physician, urged Virginians to save their limited supply of the drug for those who really need it.
“For individuals who are skeptical of the vaccine or its efficacy, I would very much like to reassure them that’s the best way to prevent people getting sick,” he said. “That being said, this is a treatment option but it’s not a substitute for vaccination if you’re young and healthy and can get vaccinated.”
Bennett said none of her patients have experienced adverse reactions to the monoclonal antibody treatment, which consists of a 30-minute infusion and an hour waiting period following.
The monoclonal antibody infusion is intended for people recently sick with COVID-19 who are at high risk for serious illness. The goal of this treatment is to reduce serious illness, symptoms, and hospitalization in patients with risk factors.
The following medical conditions or other factors may place adults and pediatric patients (age 12 to 17 years old and weighing at least 40 kg) at higher risk for progression to severe COVID-19:
- Older age (for example age ≥65 years of age)
- Obesity or being overweight (for example, adults with BMI >25 kg/m2, or if age 12-17, have BMI ≥85th percentile for their age and gender-based on CDC growth charts
- Chronic kidney disease
- Immunosuppressive disease or immunosuppressive treatment
- Cardiovascular disease (including congenital heart disease) or hypertension
- Chronic lung diseases (for example, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma [moderate-to-severe], interstitial lung disease, cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension)
- Sickle cell disease
- Neurodevelopmental disorders (for example, cerebral palsy) or other conditions that confer medical complexity (for example, genetic or metabolic syndromes and severe congenital anomalies)
- Having a medical-related technological dependence (for example, tracheostomy, gastrostomy or positive pressure ventilation (not related to COVID-19)
Bennett's clinic is also working on three additional monoclonal antibody treatments they will help get to market under the emergency use authorization. Currently, three companies produce the drugs for hospitals and clinics across the country.
The federal government purchased doses from two companies, Regeneron and Lilly Pharmaceuticals, which costs $2,100 doses each. The treatment is free for patients.