Doctors push for greater access to COVID antibody treatments

Doctors push for greater access to COVID antibody treatments

Physicians with the T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society in Palm Beach County are shedding light on additional treatment options to beat COVID-19.

SPECIAL COVERAGE: Coronavirus

The non-profit organization is comprised of doctors and health care professionals who are dedicated to ensuring all communities have equal access to healthcare.

The group is drawing attention to monoclonal antibody treatments, which can be potentially lifesaving for thousands of COVID-19 patients.

The drug could protect high-risk patients from developing severe illness and lower the risk of hospitalization.

This is similar to the treatment that was used on President Trump when he was hospitalized with the coronavirus in October.

"It is imperative that we make this readily available for those who do test positive and are at high risk and who are progressing into severe disease," said Dr. Kitonga Kiminyo, an infectious diseases specialist and COVID-19 Task Force Lead for T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society. "It's imperative that we make that information known, not only to everyone who tests positive but to the health care workers and the hospital."

The monoclonal antibody treatments are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system's ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses.

"We only have a few hospitals in Palm Beach County that offer this monoclonal antibody infusion, which only takes an hour, that you can get in an outpatient setting, and then return home without having to worry about developing complications that will end up in the hospital," Kiminyo said.

The T. Leroy Jefferson Medical Society sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis this week calling for equitable access to monoclonal antibody therapies before symptoms become severe and require hospitalization.

"The use of monoclonal antibody infusions has shown to be safe and protective in keeping COVID-positive patients out of the hospitals where morbidity and mortality can be higher," the letter to the governor reads.

The treatment for COVID-19 has been approved by the FDA and has to be given as an IV infusion.

"It is not readily available, so we would implore the governor and the powers that be in the state to make it more readily available to all the hospitals and all the outpatient centers," Kiminyo said. "If I have a positive test, I should be able to call and be able to set up an appointment should a patient meet the criteria."

Patients should coordinate with their doctor to learn if the treatment is a good fit for their situation.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, more than 600,000 monoclonal antibodies have been distributed to health care facilities, nationwide.

This month the FDA authorized the emergency use of bamlanivimab and etesevimab, which are administered together for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults and children.

The therapy was successful for Devin Grandis of Boca Raton. He scheduled the IV infusion within the 10-day window after getting a positive COVID-19 test.

"I had the dry cough. I had a stuffy nose, teary eyes. My wife actually said to me, 'I'd like you to get tested,' because I didn't really think I had it. So, I did get tested and sure enough, I came back with a positive result," Grandis said.

Devin Grandis of Boca Raton, Florida, says after receiving monoclonal antibodies his COVID-19 symptoms started to dissipate within a day.
Devin Grandis of Boca Raton, Florida, says after receiving monoclonal antibodies his COVID-19 symptoms started to dissipate within a day.

Grandis, who has lived in Palm Beach County for 30 years, said his COVID-19 symptoms quickly started to go away after receiving the treatment.

"It was quite painless, actually. Within 24 hours I really started to feel like it was disappearing. And then the next morning, when I woke up, it almost felt like a light switch where I was completely fine," Grandis said.

Grandis credits the monoclonal antibody therapy for his speedy recovery.

"I came back to work on Monday like nothing happened. … I think that that is a great way to prevent it from getting worse," Grandis said.

Monoclonal antibody treatments have been authorized by the FDA for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 10 days, who are 12 years of age and older and who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization.

Experts said these treatments could help the immune system respond more effectively to the virus.

This also includes people who are 65 years of age or older or who have certain chronic medical conditions.

A national map shows the locations that have received shipments of monoclonal antibody therapeutics under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Emergency Use Authorization within the past several weeks.

Click here to learn more about COVID-19 treatment options available.

Scripps Only Content 2021