As COVID-19 cases continue to break records, doctors are pulling out all the stops to help patients recover. A big one of those that has been used for months now is monoclonal antibodies.
“They are lifesaving treatments that have been used since the 1990s for treatment of cancer, autoimmunity, a whole slew of diseases,” said Dr. Kami Kim, Director of Infectious Diseases at USF; and Attending Physician at Tampa General Hospital.
Monoclonal antibodies are essentially a lab-made protein that mimics the immune system’s ability to fight off infection.
You’ll remember last fall when President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 and received an antibody cocktail to help fight it off.
“President Trump got the Regeneron product, Governor Christie got the Lily product, and they both swear that it made a huge difference,” said Dr. Kim.
Back then, the drugs were in their clinical trials. But since then, the Regeneron product has received the FDA’s Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). That’s the product many hospitals in the Tampa Bay area are using right now.
“It seems to be the most effective treatment against delta,” said Dr. Hal Escowitz, Chief Quality Officer and Chief Medical Informatics Officer at Lakeland Regional Health.
At Lakeland Regional, they’ve done more than 1,500 infusions of the treatment.
“We are, right now, averaging close to 400 a week in this surge,” said Dr. Escowitz.
And back at Tampa General, they’ve done more than 2,000.
“If you give these monoclonal antibodies early in the disease, you improve resolution of disease, you prevent people from going to the hospital,” said Dr. Kim.
But getting it early is key. Doctors recommend if you have COVID-related symptoms, getting tested early, and not waiting until symptoms are bad to request antibody treatment.
“Over 65 automatically qualifies, anyone who’s considered obese automatically qualifies, and then we look for lots of underlying medical problems,” said Dr. Escowitz.
It’s a quick 21-minute infusion with an hour monitoring period, and it’s proving highly beneficial and preventing hospitalizations.
“Patients actually have called me and said they felt, they didn’t feel so good that day of the infusion, the next day they felt great,” said Escowitz.
If you test positive for COVID-19 and you are interested in receiving the Regeneron antibody treatment, doctors recommend you contact your primary care physician.