Monoclonal antibody infusion treatment for COVID-19 in short supply in the Ozarks

Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 5:09 PM CST
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - Hospitals in Arkansas and Missouri report a shortage in supply for monoclonal antibody infusion, an antibody treatment shown to minimize hospitalizations from COVID-19, particularly against the Delta variant.

The Arkansas Department of Health advises hospitals across the state to prepare for a surge in COVID-19 cases after the holiday season.

“It’s a medication that provides antibodies against the virus that causes COVID,” said Brent Rosson, an internal medicine physician with North Arkansas Regional Medical Center. “It tries to help you fight that off faster. If you’ve been vaccinated you have antibodies that help you fight that off, so this kind of boosts that.”

In recent months, it has been dubbed a life-saving treatment for limiting the effects of COVID-19. Doctors at NARMC say only 3% of COVID-19 patients have been admitted after receiving the treatment.

There’s just one problem. There is now a shortage of supplies. Baxter Regional Medical Center and NARMC say they are experiencing low supplies. While the Arkansas Department of Health is working to gain more supply.

”The increase in the number of cases of Omicron variant is skyrocketing, it’s overtaking the Delta variant,” explained Dr. Jennifer Dillaha, the Chief Medical Officer with ADOH. “So I strongly encourage people to get vaccinated if they haven’t already.”

But Dillaha says it appears the treatment is less effective against the Omicron variant. So while supply is needed, it won’t be as effective at fighting off the virus as with the Delta variant.

”These antibodies are what we call passive immunization. They work for a period of time and then the body clears them out and they’re no longer effective,” she said. “Some of these antibody products that we have available are not very effective against the Omicron variant.

And as Omicron cases continue to rise, hospitals are preparing for another possible surge. Dr. Dillaha says it increases the immediacy and hopes the new Pfizer pill approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration will become readily available.

As for the Arkansas Department of health, they’re expecting the worst.

”Hospitals are on the alert because they are paying attention to what’s happening in other states,” said Dr. Dillaha. “In Ohio, they had to call the National Guard to staff hospitals. So we are very concerned about that.”

The state of Arkansas surpassed 9,000 deaths from the COVID-19 virus on Wednesday.

Click here to view Arkansas COVID-19 statistics.

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