Monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 now locally available

CHARLOTTE — Monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19 have prevented 16,000 hospitalizations and more than 6,500 deaths, according to the White House. Vaccines have overshadowed the therapeutic treatment that experts believe could save a lot of lives.

“In all the studies, whoever got a monoclonal antibody did not die,” said Dr. David Wohl, UNC School of Medicine.

Wohl is an infectious disease specialist and praises the monoclonal treatment.

“It’s sort of the best-kept secret that I wish more people knew about,” Wohl said.

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The treatment helped former President Donald Trump beat COVID-19.

“His doctors didn’t hesitate a moment to get an IV in him and infuse him,” Wohl said.

Monoclonals are not only for the rich and famous, but it’s not something you can take at home. Patients must go to an infusion center and have the treatment administered via IV. Experts are concerned the centers are not being utilized to their full potential because a lot of people don’t know to ask for it.

“(The antibodies) attach right onto the virus and doesn’t let it enter our cells,” Wohl said. “And infusion of these antibodies really quickly, soon after someone develops symptoms, has been found consistently in studies to be able to prevent people from getting hospitalized.”

Monoclonals are being limited to patients who have a high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19.

“The good news is it’s one infusion, so one time hooked up, get it into your arm, you’re done,” Wohl said. “This is really important because a lot of people are not taking advantage of this.”

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Judge Donnie Hoover, of Charlotte, and his wife contracted the coronavirus at the beginning of the pandemic when the monoclonal treatment wasn’t available. He said the fatigue lingered on.

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One year later, the couple said they have not fully recovered.

“At that time, there was no known treatment,” Hoover said.

The treatment is now available at infusion centers in the Charlotte area and in the state.

“If there was a chance it would have helped, you better believe we would have done it,” Hoover said.

StarMed will be able to administer 150 doses of REGEN-COV a day as demand increases

StarMed Healthcare will be the first non-hospital-system clinic in our area to administer doses of Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody therapy, REGEN-COV.

In an effort to meet the demand that will follow the onset of this therapy, the company has signed a lease at 491 N. Wendover Road to alleviate wait times and open up appointment slots. 150 daily doses of REGEN-COV will be administered at the StarMed Eastland site and the aforementioned site starting this week.

The new space will have 14 private rooms to accommodate monoclonal antibody patients. StarMed will continue to work with other counties around the state to set up similar clinics.

StarMed said its goal is to relieve the burden on the hospital system by offering REGEN-COV monoclonal antibody therapy to patients, which research validation has shown:

  • Reduces the mortality rate of COVID-19 by 20%-70%.
  • Decreases symptoms in COVID-positive patients by two weeks.
  • Decreases viral loads to make patients less contagious.

StarMed said for patients who are exposed to COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy can be used as a prophylaxis after being exposed to decrease getting symptomatic COVID-19 by 93%.

REGEN-COV has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Due to a limited supply, appointments are being accepted through the starmed.care website.

REGEN-COV is produced by taking the natural immunity from a COVID-positive donor and replicating the antibody protein that is specific to fighting COVID-19. The replicated antibodies are administered through either a 21-minute IV infusion or subcutaneous injection, with a 60-minute observation for any side effects.

The antibodies remain in the patient’s system for 30 to 90 days. Minor side effects include nausea and dizziness, while serious side effects are rare.

Monoclonal antibody therapy is completely free to patients and is not a substitute for getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Patients who SHOULD receive doses of REGEN-COV monoclonal antibody therapy:

  • Individuals ages 12 and up who are unvaccinated can receive monoclonal antibody therapy.
  • Anyone who is vaccinated but has an immunocompromised state due to underlying health conditions like cancer, organ transplants, autoimmune disorders or chronic steroid use.
  • Individuals who are positive with COVID-19 with mild or moderate symptoms.

Patients who SHOULD NOT receive doses of REGEN-COV monoclonal antibody therapy:

  • Patients with severe symptoms, and anyone who is requiring increased oxygen due to being positive with COVID-19.
  • Anyone who is exposed to COVID-19 but has been vaccinated and can mount a good response.

Novant Health began administering monoclonal antibody treatment to COVID-19 patients in December 2020. Since then, Novant has administered these drugs to over 700 patients at infusion centers in Winston-Salem, Charlotte, Salisbury, and their Coastal Market.

Novant Health follows emergency use authorization criteria for monoclonal antibody treatment. Eligible patients:

  • Have a positive COVID-19 test with mild-moderate symptoms AND
  • Are not hospitalized AND
  • Are over 65 years old or have other chronic conditions that put them at a high risk of progressing to severe COVID-19.

(WATCH BELOW: Monoclonal antibody treatment: What you need to know)