Those battling Covid-19 in the Red River Valley now have access to a treatment that could help to prevent severe symptoms and the need for hospitalization. SignatureCare Emergency Center in Paris and Paris Regional Medical Center are both offering monoclonal antibody treatments, which the Food and Drug Administration has given Emergency Use Authorization for as a therapeutic treatment for Covid-19.
“As an emergency room in the area, we really felt that it was important to be able to offer this treatment ourselves, and so we now have the capacity to,” SignatureCare medical director Cynthia Simmons said.
The treatment is an intravenous infusion, administered on site under the care of medical professionals. The drug, bamlanivimab, contains monoclonal antibodies, which are laboratory-produced molecules made to act as substitute antibodies to help fight off Covid-19.
“Antibodies that are made in a laboratory act a lot like natural antibodies, to limit the effect of viruses in the body,” Simmons said.
Similarly to the Covid-19 vaccine, the monoclonal antibody treatment is available under Emergency Use Authorization, meaning it is not yet FDA-approved, but has shown it may have a positive impact and there are “no adequate, approved, and available alternatives,” according to the FDA.
Bamlanivimab is intended to keep mild or moderate Covid-19 cases from turning severe, so it is only available to people who currently have the virus, but are not at the point of needing hospitalization. In order to receive the treatment at SignatureCare or PRMC, a patient must present with a positive Covid-19 test result and start the treatment within 10 days of the onset of symptoms — but those symptoms can’t be severe enough that the patient requires oxygen.
“They have been found to be really important in preventing people that are at high risk for severe Covid-19 from being hospitalized, or from getting critical,” Simmons said. “That’s why these are so important, just because it is truly one of the only really recognized treatments for people that are positive for Covid to prevent them from being hospitalized or critically ill.”
In order to qualify to receive the infusion, a patient must be considered “high risk,” which the FDA deems as those over the age of 65 or people with pre-existing conditions like obesity, chronic kidney disease or hypertension. Patients must also be over the age of 12 or at least 88 pounds. For a full list of qualifications, visit fda.gov.
Amanda Green, chief medical officer at PRMC, said the infusion itself takes about an hour and then the hospital keeps the patient onsite for a while afterward to monitor them should they have an adverse reaction to the drug. Of the around 100 people who have received the infusion at PRMC, Green said there have been very few reactions.
“The main downside of it is that you can get an allergic reaction, and we’ve had I think about two people have an allergic reaction to it but they did fine,” Green said.
The treatment is a little more intimidating than taking a pill, Green said, as a patient does have to be hooked up to an IV, but said that the benefits are certainly worth it as it could keep a mild case of Covid-19 from seriously jeopardizing the life of a patient.
“Hopefully one needlestick is avoiding maybe more later on,” Green said.
Simmons said the impact of Covid-19 is hard to miss, as in January alone, SignatureCare saw 900 people due to the virus. Now that the facility is offering the antibody treatment, she said she’s hoping they’re taking a step toward getting the pandemic under control, and saving lives.
“We have been taking care of individuals with Covid throughout this entire pandemic and this is a continuation of the process of being able to offer our community not only diagnosis but now actually to be able to offer really a definitive treatment that shows a clear benefit for prevention of serious disease,” she said. “At SignatureCare we’re absolutely delighted to be part of the continued solutions to getting us all out of this pandemic and getting back to normalcy as soon as we can.”