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Covid-19 antibody treatment is plentiful, but still sitting on the shelf

They had to do it on all holidays. During a pandemic.

“It was a huge effort on the part of many people,” said Scott McAuli, chief executive of pharmacy in Piedmont, who had to figure out how to create a program to treat Covid-19 monoclonal antibodies.

Studies show that these treatments can prevent high-risk patients with Covid-19 from developing severe symptoms.,, however, health officials say not enough available treatments have been used.

Giving someone these treatments is not as simple as swallowing a pill. Because they are infectious, patients undergoing this treatment must be separated from others. A nurse with full protective equipment should administer the treatment for about an hour and then monitor the patient for another.

“It prevents hospitalizations, but the logistics for them are daunting, and of course the staff with nurses in our current national health crisis are also struggling,”

; McAuli said.

The Piedmont program now treats about 250 patients with Covid-19 a week, but the country’s health officials say the treatment has not been used nearly enough in the months that have been available.

In Michigan, for example, less than 10 percent of available Covid-19 monoclonal antibody treatments have been used, said Dr. William Thales, medical director at the Michigan Department of Health and Humanitarian Services, during a news briefing last week.
California health officials told CNN that facilities in their state administered 8 percent of the monoclonal antibody stock on hand during the week of Jan. 13.

Since the therapies were approved for emergency use by the US Food and Drug Administration in November, the US Department of Health and Humanitarian Affairs said it had granted nearly 800,000 courses. As of Monday, it has delivered 454,087 courses of Eli Lilly’s bamlanivimab and 96,923 courses of Regeneron’s cocktail, kaziriviimab / imdevimab.
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But as the Biden administration spreads its own national pandemic control strategy, it is unclear exactly how many of the distributed antibody treatments actually treated patients or where. This information is not published on the HHS website or tracked on government boards.

HHS told CNN in early January that the average use of antibody therapies was 25 percent. Eli Lily said on Wednesday that the use of both antibody therapies allowed in the United States had increased to 39 percent, according to Operation Warp Speed, which was shared with the company last week.

Outgoing general surgeon Dr. Jerome Adams called on doctors last week to prescribe treatment “much more often” and told people who tested positive to seek it out.

“You need to ask your monoclonal antibody provider as a way to protect you from the hospital,” Adams said.

“Medicines, these therapies are not used as much as I, or the doctors in the working group, or the experts, the career experts here at HHS think they should be. I want to remind everyone that we are not helpless in our crusade against virus. “

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Eli Lilly’s spokeswoman, Molly McCully, said in an email that the company was seeing “steady improvement in usage from week to week.” She added that the company is partnering with the government to raise awareness about the treatments.

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Alexandra Bowie, a spokeswoman for Regeneron, said the company acknowledged that “there are recent challenges with the last 10 yards in terms of easy administration of antibodies to patients.”

“Our team is working so hard to develop and test this drug in record time, and we obviously want it to reach as many patients as possible,” Bowie said in an email.

“Given that the spread of antibodies has coincided with the rise of the virus in most countries, it is understandably difficult for health care providers / centers that are already depleted,” Bowie said. “But we call every day with government leaders who respond to patient / physician feedback and work to ensure that more Americans have access to these drugs.”

Regeneron said he is also trying to educate providers and raise awareness through social media.

Education seems to work. North Dakota, for example, said it was also trying to help the media tell clinicians and the public. This is also something that tracking contracts mention when they turn to people to know that they have been exposed to someone with Covid-19.

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“Initially, there was a lot of skepticism about these drugs,” said Dr. Joshua Ranum, vice president of the North Dakota Medical Association. “There is a lot of aggressive public access here now. I’ve seen a lot more awareness and acceptance of patients and we’ve seen quite dramatic results with efficiency.”

Although the use of monoclonal antibody treatments has been “low,” it is steadily rising, according to North Dakota Public Information Officer Heather Steffle. She said treatment use had risen from 450 infusions in the first six weeks to an average of 650 a week.

And it helped. Steffle said the state has seen “success” with treatments and a declining number of hospitalizations.

“Now there’s something they can actually help with.”

One health care system that has accepted treatment is South Dakota-based Sanford Health, which operates 46 hospitals and 200 adult care facilities in 26 states.

Sanford said it has treated more than 1,400 patients with Lilly and Regeneron antibody therapies to date.

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“Don’t get me wrong, there was a small construction for that,” said Dr. Jermy Cowbels, Sanford’s chief physician. “But quite honestly, when we saw that this was something that would help us in the worst crisis, we said, ‘Let’s see how quickly we can adjust this.’ “

Sanford’s electronic recording system is one of the key factors in the program’s success, Cowells said. It is now set to automatically signal when someone tests positive for Covid-19. The system notifies a team that quickly determines if the patient qualifies for treatment, and if so, Sanford calls to bring them to the clinic as soon as possible.

Cowells said the treatment had already prevented at least 40 hospitalizations, several deaths and “sick days for more than a year”.

“It’s just about that for a few months,” Cowels said.

Nurse Dena Ollis, director of women’s services who helped set up the program in Piedmont, Athens, Georgia, said monoclonal antibody treatment had brought something staff and patients hadn’t seen much of during a pandemic. .

“We had a lot of worries about setting everything up, but once we released and launched it, it was very helpful to see patients so grateful,” Ollis said. “And the staff feels very hopeful that there is already something they can actually do to help the patient and hopefully stop the disease process from getting so bad.”

CNN’s Jacqueline Howard contributed to this report.

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