Demand for monoclonal antibody treatment growing at Augusta hospitals

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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — As COVID-19 cases spike in Augusta, demand is growing for monoclonal antibody treatments. Therapeutic monoclonal antibodies are used to treat people with mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, who are at high-risk of hospitalization due to other health conditions, including:

  • Older age (65+), obesity, pregnancy, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, chronic lung disease, sickle cell disease, immunosuppressive disease, neurodevelopmental disorders

It is a one-time treatment that needs to be administered to patients within 10 days of when they begin experiencing symptoms. Patients needs a doctor’s referral.

“From early studies, it shortens the duration of disease, reduces hospitalizations and improves the outcomes of those patients who may require hospitalization,” Dr. Richard Schwartz, the chairman of AU Health’s Emergency Medicine Department, explains.

“We are also administering it to patients who come into the emergency department, who don’t need to be admitted to the hospital, but meet those high-risk criteria,” Dr. Barry Jenkins, the Chief Medical Officer of University Health Care System, adds.

It has been a promising treatment at Augusta’s hospitals. As of Wednesday, Augusta University Medical Center had administered 965 infusions. 18 patients are treated daily in an outpatient setting, seven days a week. Meanwhile, University Hospital has treated about 400 patients. It plans to expand its outpatient program in the coming weeks to treat more patients daily. A spokesperson from Doctors Hospital tells NewsChannel 6 it is using monoclonal antibodies to treat inpatients.

“It’s not something that works immediately, but it does prevent severe disease,” Schwartz says.

Several patients told NewsChannel 6 the treatment helped them recover from COVID-19, including one person who said she “started feeling better the next day. But, it really took three days to see a turnaround.”

“We do seem to be seeing really good success with this,” Jenkins says. “But, I think it’s important to remember this is not the cure all. it’s still very important for people to be preventative about getting COVID-19, get vaccinated, watch their distance and wear a mask.”

While hospitals see success with monoclonal antibodies, doctors stress vaccination remains pivotal in fighting COVID-19.

“The most important thing is that people continue to be very vigilant about this,” Jenkins says. “This is very real. Vaccination is still the key to preventing this from worsening in the community.”

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