A few months ago, we talked about antibodies (click here to review the topic) and how they help us fight infections like COVID-19. Let’s talk about another aspect of antibodies: monoclonal antibody therapy for people infected with COVID. Remember that antibodies are chemicals in our bodies that directly attack foreign invaders like virus and bacteria. They also signal our white blood cells to destroy these invaders. They’re great to have around. However, it takes time for our bodies to recognize the presence of an infection and more time to make the appropriate antibodies. During this delay, the infecting agent is running rampant through our bodies, wreaking havoc, and increasing in numbers. By the time an adequate supply of antibodies is produced, the infection may have the upper hand and overwhelm the patient which results in death. It would be great if we could have a supply of the correct antibodies much earlier in the infection. That is where monoclonal antibodies come into play.
Monoclonal antibodies are produced in a lab and are designed for a specific target. There are now three commercially available monoclonal antibodies directed against the COVID-19 virus. They can shorten the duration of illness and can reduce the chance of hospitalization by 70%. Treatment with COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies is done either through an IV infusion or a series of shots given under the skin. Either way, the treatment is completed in one visit. The cost of the medication is $2000 and is paid by our government. Some treating locations may charge for an initial evaluation and for administering the treatment; many insurances will cover these costs. Most people tolerate the treatment very well and serious side effects are uncommon.
Remember when the COVID-19 vaccine was first released, and only certain people were eligible to receive it? A similar situation exists for determining who qualifies for monoclonal antibodies treatment. In short, treatment is approved for people who test positive for COVID-19 with an onset of symptoms within the past 10 days and are not hospitalized, but who are at high risk of developing severe COVID-19. A short summary of high-risk health conditions includes: age 65 or older, obesity, pregnancy, chronic kidney disease, diabetes, immunosuppressive disease or immunosuppressive treatment, cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure, and chronic lung diseases. The CDC provides a longer list, click here to view it.
Finally, remember when the COVID-19 vaccine was first released and there was confusion and disarray about how and where to receive it? A similar situation exists for finding monoclonal antibodies treatments. The short answer is there is no short answer. There is a clearinghouse where patients can go to register for treatment. Additionally, several hospital systems in town are offering treatment as are some urgent care clinics. The process of registering and scheduling can be frustrating. Admittedly, it is much less hassle than going to the intensive care unit.
· Most patients find success at the state clearinghouse website by clicking here or by calling 877-268-2926.
· The UCHealth system can be reached by calling 720-907-0979 or clicking here
· For more information click here.
Finally, monoclonal antibodies are like calling the fire department after the house is on fire. Our primary focus must remain on prevention. Vaccinations, masks, social distancing, and proper handwashing are the key to our success as a community, a nation and a planet.