New coronavirus antibody treatment available at local hospitals

Updated: Dec. 23, 2020 at 7:55 PM CST
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LAKE CHARLES, La. (KPLC) -- In addition to the vaccine, there’s new promise in the fight against COVID-19.

As cases and hospitalizations remain steady, a new emergency treatment is being administered in the Lake Area for COVID patients who aren’t sick enough for hospitalization.

“So the name is Bamlanivimab..and what it does is block the COVID cells from attacking you,” said Lake Charles Memorial Clinical Manager Monica Carroll.

The effort to stop the spread of COVID-19 doesn’t end with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. The FDA gave emergency use authorization to a new monoclonal antibody treatment known as BAM for short on November 9th.

Hospitals in the Lake Area, like Memorial and Christus Ochsner St. Patrick are now offering the treatment.

“This treatment can be life-saving to those who are most vulnerable to severe illness. It is important for patients to know how valuable this treatment is in fighting off the virus,” said Timothy Haman, M.D., Vice President of Medical Affairs, CHRISTUS Ochsner Health Southwestern Louisiana.

“It’s infused into the patient that’s COVID positive and it mimics their immune system,” said Christus Ochsner St. Patrick’s Infection Preventionist Angie Dugas.

“It takes about 3 hours while they’re hear. The infusion itself takes about 1 hour. We monitor them to that point and then an hour afterword,” said Lake Charles Memorial Palliative Care Nurse Nancy Coffey.

The drug is somewhat controversial because going into it doctors didn’t know a lot about the risks.

“There is some concern about adverse reactions...but we’ve seen a lot of good response. So, we’re looking forward to this drug being very consistent as well as very effective,” said Dugas.

Carroll says at Lake Charles Memorial, they’re already seeing positive early results.

Early results in clinical trials indicate the therapy is beneficial when given early, before a patient’s immune system has mounted an antibody response.

“This means it is important for people to be evaluated by their physician or at an Urgent Care clinic at the first sign of symptoms,” said Dr. Haman.

This treatment is reserved for patients who are at increased risk for severe illness. Patients with underlying medical conditions including: BMI greater than 35, chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, immunosuppressive disease, those receiving immunosuppressive treatment/therapy, age over 65, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and chronic lung/respiratory disease.

“We’re being able to treat 8 to 9 patients on average a day and hopefully keeping them from getting worse or hospitalized. So, it’s a big deal.”

Local healthcare workers say it’s a game changer especially with all the uncertainty surrounding the virus during its early stages.

While this treatment is showing promise early, it’s not for everyone. And just like with any other disease, early treatment tends to show the best results.

“It’s pretty amazing the amount of advancements we’ve been able to make this year and the FDA is still sending notifications for future testing that will come available,” Dugas said. “I was excited to be apart of this process because this will help keep our community out of the hospital and help those afflicted with the virus stay home and recover safely from the virus.”

The therapy requires an intravenous infusion and monitoring after the procedure. The process takes a few hours and is offered for scheduling on Tuesdays and Fridays. Patients are encouraged to speak with their primary care physicians to see if they are a candidate for this new treatment.

The treatment is free for those that qualify. Lake Charles Memorial is already administering the treatment. Christus Ochsner St. Patrick is expected to start treating patients with it next week.

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