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Monoclonal antibody treatments in Maine down to one option with omicron

Hospitals say they have enough infusion medicine locally but nationally the supply is limited
Patients receiving the Monoclonal Antibody Therapy
Patients receiving the Monoclonal Antibody Therapy(Phoebe Putney Medical Center)
Published: Jan. 10, 2022 at 3:30 PM EST
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BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Starting January 10th, St. Joseph Hospital is expanding operations at its Monoclonal Antibody Clinic to six days a week.

Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor offers its clinic three days a week for infusions.

Monoclonal antibodies are used to treat COVID-19 patients with mild or moderate symptoms.

Joy Hollowell tells us how it works and why the omicron variant is creating some challenges.

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“We’re presuming that almost everybody at this point and time is getting omicron. The prevalence in Maine is to the point where we believe it’s probably over 80% now {for those newly diagnosed.}”

Dr. David Koffman, Vice President of Medical Affairs at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor says the hope is that omicron will be a relatively short wave, about four to six weeks.

For those that do test positive for COVID-19, monoclonal antibodies could be a viable treatment option.

“You get an IV line inserted into your vein and we actually infuse the monoclonal antibody into you,” says Dr. James Jarvis with Northern Light Health. “This is an antibody that is similar to what our own bodies make, it’s synthetically made in a laboratory.”

So, who is eligible?

“Anyone’s whose elderly,” says Koffman. “If you are over 65, you definitely qualify. If you have have anything that causes any suppression of your immune system. Also, if you have risk factors- obesity, diabetes, significant cardiovascular or lung disease.”

When it comes to receiving the treatment, Koffman says the sooner, the better.

“We can give them up to 10 days after symptoms have started but they’re most effective if they’re given within 5 days.”

The infusion is done at the clinic and typically lasts a little more than 30 minutes. Patients are then monitored for an hour after to make sure there’s no allergic reactions. The federal government provides the medicine so the only cost to patients is for the actual infusion. which is typically covered by insurance.

In December of 2021, St. Joseph Healthcare administered more than 400 doses of monoclonal antibody treatment.

“We have three antibodies available,” says Koffman. “But with the omicron, two of them don’t work very well.”

In fact, Dr. Koffman says, the state issued an alert Friday night that those other two treatments should no longer be used.

“So there’s only one antibody left, Sotrovimab,” he explains. “We do have that in stock at St. Joe’s but the supply nationally is incredibly limited. So that’s a concern that we have.”

Northern Light Health confirms they are in a similar situation.

“We are planning in the monoclonal clinic, to be able to offer to patients intravenous Remdesimir,” says Koffman. “Which is not a monoclonal antibody but it’s an iv that’s been used since the start of the pandemic. In the past, it was only used for patients who were sicker and in the hospital. but a recent study came out showing that it was effective early on in the disease. So we’re planning on being able to offer that as well, especially if we run low on Sotrovimab.”

Doctors stress theses treatments are not a substitute for vaccinations and boosters.

“Absolutely not, because we don’t have the supply,” warns Koffman. “The number one thing you can do, if you haven’t got your booster, is to get a booster. If you haven’t got vaccinated, get vaccinated.”

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The new COVID pill just approved by the FDA is similar to intravenous treatments and reports show it to be effective against all variants of the virus.

However, Dr. Koffman cautions, Paxlovid can interfere with other medications you are taking.

Dr. Nirav Shah with the Maine CDC calls Paxlovid encouraging, but says initially, supplies will be limited.

An antiviral pill from Merck also is expected to soon win authorization, but officials think Pfizer’s will be the preferred option because of its mild side effects and superior effectiveness, including a nearly 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.

To find out if you’re eligible for monoclonal antibody treatments, contact your local health provider.

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