Antibody infusion treatment gives hospitals in the Ozarks hope as COVID-19 cases spike

Published: Jul. 9, 2021 at 11:41 AM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A new outpatient treatment may eliminate hospital stays for some COVID-19 patients in the Ozarks.

Cases of COVID-19 continue to spike here in the Ozarks and hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. CoxHealth on Friday reported 105 hospitalizations from the virus. Mercy in Springfield reported another 128 hospitalizations.

In November, the Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use authorization for monoclonal antibody infusion treatments. Patients with a higher risk may get the medication through an outpatient IV infusion. Providers have been offering the treatment for months, but recently stopped using the bamlanivimab etesevimab combo. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services put a pause on its distribution. Federal health officials say the treatment wasn’t effective against the Gamma or Beta COVID-19 variants, which are spreading.

Mercy staff says it stopped using the old combo that same day, June 25. But another monoclonal antibody treatment is available to hospitals. Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar quickly switched to the new combo, casirivimab and imdevimab. CoxHealth staff say they are also now using the new combo. Providers can refer patients for the treatment.

Jordan Valley Community Health Center is waiting on the new treatment. Mercy says it has received the medication, but is working on logistics to provide the treatment to patients.

“It’s primarily an outpatient infusion, so we really want to prevent emergency room visits and hospitalizations,” said David Wolfrath, Mercy Executive Dir. of Pharmacy. “So really want to make it available.”

Mercy hopes to start offering the treatment in the next couple of weeks, maybe as early as next week. Mercy plans to offer it somewhere besides the emergency room.

“I think it’s probably not the perfect cure, but definitely a tool that we want to use to slow the spread,” says Wolfrath. “I do believe that there is sufficient data to think that it could be an effective treatment.”

Doctors at CMH have treated 540 patients with antibody infusions throughout the pandemic. They say they’re currently treating seven to nine patients a day, five days a week.

For COVID-19 treatment at home, the CDC recommends over the counter fever medication like Tylenol, lots of fluids and rest. Mercy staff say fluids are very important to help your kidneys functioning correctly and to help your body dispose of toxins. A Mercy provider says if you have COVID-19 symptoms, you can get equipment to monitor your pulse, oxygen and blood pressure at home. They say, if you’re considering taking a cough medicine or even vitamins to potentially boost your immune system, check with your doctor.

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