JONESBORO — With COVID-19 cases continuing to climb in Craighead County, both local hospital systems are trying to implement more therapies to battle the virus until a vaccination becomes available.
The newest COVID-19 therapy made available thanks to an Emergency Use Authorization granted by the Food and Drug Administration, called monoclonal antibody therapy, is now available to residents. The FDA announced the authorization on Nov. 9.
This therapy, according to a press release issued by the Food and Drug Administration, says the antibody therapy, known as bamlanivimab, is a laboratory-made antibody administered to patients intravenously.
So far, there have been documented success cases, according to the release, which shows just 3 percent of patients with COVID-19 who received the treatment had related hospital visits, compared to 10 percent of patients who had to visit the hospital after receiving a placebo.
Both NEA Baptist Memorial Hospital and St. Bernards Medical Center will have the one-time infusions available beginning Friday.
Dr. Stephen Woodruff, chief medical officer for NEA Baptist, said the monoclonal antibody treatment is similar to the cancer treatments and arthritis treatments designed to manipulate the immune system to respond in a certain way.
“This particular antibody will attach itself to the COVID-19 spike protein so it can’t attach itself,” he said.
Currently, Woodruff said this infusion is limited to category-specific, high-risk patients.
“Those patients with a body mass index of greater than 35, those with diabetes, those who are immunocompromised, or those receiving immunosuppression drugs will be the only candidates eligible for treatment at this time,” Woodruff said.
Also, those patients who are age 65 and older or those over the age of 55 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or those with hypertension (high blood pressure) are also eligible for the therapy.
St. Bernards Healthcare system will also have intravenous immunotherapy available at one specific network location.
Dr. Connie Hill, vice president of St. Bernards Heart Care Center and Cancer Center, said the clinic was open for business beginning Friday morning.
“The new clinic is located at 1150 E. Matthews and serves as two facilities,” Hill said. “It will be a follow-up care clinic for COVID-19 patients who continue to experience problems after being discharged and also as an infusion center for monoclonal antibodies.”
Hill said this new treatment is a much-needed answer to the current crisis of climbing cases.
“At a time we are seeing so much transmission, this is a breakthrough,” she said.
Woodruff believes the current COVID-19 numbers are reflective of Halloween activities.
“Please continue to do social distancing, wear masks and so forth,” Woodruff said. “I am so scared of Thanksgiving.”