Earlier this month, Rhea Medical Center [RMC] opened one of Southeast Tennessee’s only infusion centers to administer monoclonal antibody treatments for high-risk patients diagnosed with COVID-19, and hospital officials said they are seeing success with the treatment.
The FDA recently gave emergency authorization for two COVID-19 antibody medications: bamlanivimab and casirivimab/imdevimab. The treatment, hospital officials said, is similar to the one former President Donald Trump received when he had COVID-19 in October.
“The early data looks promising,” RMC Director of Pharmacy Ryan Smith said. “It reduces the chance of being hospitalized, and we’ve seen good results. The drug is administered over one hour, and then patients are monitored for an additional hour. In total, the entire process generally takes two and a half to three hours.”
Hospital officials said that RMC has administered the medications to over 100 patients and has seen positive results, especially in those who receive the medications within 72 hours of symptom onset.
“To qualify for the infusions, a patient must be considered ‘high risk;’ there’s a long list of criteria that can qualify an individual for the infusions, but, in general, anyone over age 65, anyone with diabetes, anyone taking immunosuppressant medications, or significantly overweight would automatically qualify,” Smith said. “These work best if they’re given early. The idea is that by giving them early you jump start the body’s ability to fight the virus.”
Rhea Medical Center’s Dr. Mark Pollard said the antibody infusion kick starts the body’s ability to fight the virus.
“It’s giving a person antibodies before the body’s immune system kicks in,” Pollard said.
Pollard said that the hospital has set up a separate wing for COVID antibody infusion and converted the physician’s longue to a treatment area. The move, he said, allows at risk people without COVID to safely receive other infusion treatments without being exposed to the virus.
Patients interested in the infusions should contact their primary care providers. These providers can then refer patients to the RMC COVID-19 Infusion Clinic for monoclonal antibody treatment.
“I have referred several patients to Rhea Medical for monoclonal antibodies for COVID-19 infections,” Dr. Alan Crews said. “My patients have reported generally rapid improvement in symptoms after the infusion, and so far no significant side effects have been reported by these patients. In appropriate patients, I feel the antibody infusion can be quite beneficial, and may decrease need for hospital admission later.”
Since antibody infusion works best during the early onset of symptoms, hospital officials said that individuals who have had symptoms for over 10 days do not qualify for the treatment.
“The majority of my patients that have received a monoclonal antibody infusion have seen their symptoms resolve in 48 hours or less,” Dr. Dan Logan said. “These infusions are one of the best treatment options we have in the fight against COVID-19.”