By Jennifer Maupin – Staff Writer for The Claremore Daily Progress
Director of Oklahoma Medical Response Team Region 2 Kelly Deal said monoclonal antibody treatments are one of the best tools in the medical fields toolbox for treating patients exposed to COVID-19.
Monoclonal antibody treatments were first used in 1986 to treat kidney transplant rejections, according to the National Institutes for Health. Monoclonals designed to treat COVID-19 were approved by the Food and Drug Administration under emergency use authorization on Nov. 21, 2020. Some might know the treatment by the name Regeneron, which is one brand of the treatment.
Medical-surgical manager for Hillcrest Claremore Michelle Green said her hospital has administered at least three monoclonal treatments a day for the last few weeks. It is taking some burden off of emergency rooms, she said.
“It’s made it to where we have beds available for other people, not just COVID,” Green said.
Monoclonal antibodies can be administered intravenously or through four consecutive subcutaneous injections, Green said.
The FDA describes the treatment as, “laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses.”
Deal said monoclonal antibodies can be given to anyone older than 12 who is confirmed positive for COVID-19, so long as they are not on supplemental oxygen from the coronavirus. He said realistically 99% of people who receive the treatment do not have to be hospitalized.
“The first strike we did was up in the Grove area and we had some minor reactions, nothing that required medical attention, nothing that required any treatment or transportation, but they had to watch them a little closer,” Deal said. “Since then, it’s unbelievable, but we’ve had literally no other reactions on our strike teams. So, the drug is just so safe, we so rarely see any type of reaction and when you do its usually easily managed.”
Region 2’s Monoclonal Strike Teams conducted 13 visits administering treatments to long-term care and assisted-living facilities in the region, Deal said.
Oolagah-Talala EMS Field Supervisor David Davis reported to the County Commissioners during the regular meeting Monday his team administered treatment to 36 patients at the Claremore Veteran Center.
Monoclonal antibody treatments have been groundbreaking in mitigating the effects of COVID-19, but there is one problem, Deal said, there is a nationwide shortage.
“It’s very limited and there’s many arguments about why that’s happening,” Deal said. “We are not the only state that’s suffering those challenges, it’s basically a nationwide shortage right now and there’s a lot of work being done by the state health department to get that under control.”
Deal and Green discussed difficulties in getting enough monoclonal antibody infusions, but Green said Hillcrest Claremore received more doses Friday. Green said the requirements to be eligible for the treatment have relaxed and more people are eligible – making the treatment scarcer.
“You have to be over the age of 18 to get it [at Hillcrest Claremore],” Green said. “If you’ve been exposed to COVID-19, you are eligible for an infusion.”
Deal said the Oklahoma State Department of Health and Response Services along with his team are trying to sort out the shortage as soon as possible and believes the treatment, if more widely available, could substantially affect the course of COVID-19 in hospitals.
“It’s such a win-win for everybody, if we could just get the doses in that we need, we could do a quantity that would significantly impact the hospital system in a positive way,” Deal said.