SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Baystate Health is the only area health system to offer monoclonal antibody therapy for patients which could help the body’s immune system combat COVID-19.
According to the FDA, the monoclonal antibody may reduce COVID-19-related hospitalizations and emergency room visits in some patients treated within 10 days of symptom onset.
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses.
According to Dr. Gladys Fernandez, co-director of the Baystate Infection Control Treatment Unit (ICTU) and director of Hospital-Based Education Programs at Baystate Medical Center, they administered the first experimental drug to a patient on December 9.
“I was amazed by his recovery and absolutely thrilled over the hope that this could bring to so many other patients impacted by COVID-19,” Fernandez said. “Over the past two months, an incredible team of front-line healthcare providers and critical behind the scenes staff have come together to develop and implement an effective program of antibody infusions for patients across the state,” she added.
According to Baystate Health spokesman Keith O’Connor, the US Food and Drug Administration in November issued an emergency use authorization for Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody and Regeneron’s antibody “cocktail” to treat COVID-19 in high-risk patients with mild to moderate disease.
Unlike the vaccines that stimulate one’s immune system to produce antibodies, monoclonal antibodies are given to treat early COVID-19 to help prevent the progression of the illness. According to O’Connor, the antibodies are also being studied to determine if they can prevent someone from contracting the virus.
The four laboratory-produced COVID-19 monoclonal antibodies are casirivimab, imdevimab, bamlanivimab, and etesevimab. They are specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and designed to block the virus’s attachment and entry into human cells.
People eligible for receiving the treatment are patients ages 12 and older weighing about 88 pounds with positive results of COVID-19 testing and who are at high risk for progressing to severe COVID-19. Patients must be referred by a healthcare provider. According to the FDA, it should be given as soon as possible after a positive test result.
You are not eligible if you are already hospitalized for the virus. In the event that there are more eligible candidates than drug supply, a lottery system will be used to choose patients. The treatment takes place at Baystate Noble Infection Control Treatment Unit on Silver Street in Westfield.
The cocktail has not been authorized for use in patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19 or need oxygen therapy due to the virus.
Baystate’s Chief Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Armando Paez said in a news release sent to 22News that the antibodies are an investigational treatment, but are very promising in early infection and may also prevent infection following exposure.
Baystate Health has successfully provided monoclonal antibody treatment to over 140 patients selected for infusion based on a regulated criterion-based referral lottery system with guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.