COVID antibody treatments going unused in WA state as hospitals fill up, DOH says

SEATTLE — As pandemic-related hospitalizations continue to surge under a Delta-variant fueled wave of COVID-19, thousands of doses of medicine, that could reduce the risk of hospitalization or death in high-risk patients, have gone unused, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

As COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths have continued to spike nationwide, a treatment that is currently available to high-risk Washingtonians has gone largely unused, according to Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH).

It’s called monoclonal antibody therapy.

“I think we really want to make people aware, there is a very effective treatment that’s out there if you’re dealing with COVID,” said WSDOH COVID-19 medical advisor, Dr. Bob Lutz. “Especially if you have those high-risk characteristics that could cause you to get hospitalized.”

The treatment is derived from a lab made protein that works to reduce a person’s viral load.

According to WSDOH, there is growing evidence that these lab-created antibodies, can reduce the likelihood of people being hospitalized of dying from COVID-19.

“Essentially, what these monoclonal antibodies do, is they sort of jump start your immune system,” Dr. Lutz explained. “So, it provides your body that first sort of get up and go to hopefully keep the infection at bay.”

Last October, former President Donald Trump received the treatment and said it should be free and available to all Americans.

At the time, the therapy was still being investigated as a form of treatment.

“We’ve come a long way,” said Dr. Lutz. “We’ve come a long way that’s the bottom line.”

“Like everything we’ve seen with COVID, we continue to learn, and we’re learning more and more about this type of treatment for appropriate COVID-19 infection,” he continued.

Since October, several monoclonal antibody drugs have received emergency use authorization from the FDA.

The drugs are available to adult and pediatric patients with mild to moderate COVID cases, who are at high-risk for progressing to a severe case, or hospitalization.

Two different brands of the drug are available to Washingtonians, Sotrovimab and REGEN-COV which is a cocktail of casirivimab and imdevimab.

The treatments are administered through an hour-long IV infusion. However, some treatments are available as an injection.

While most treatments are only available to high-risk individuals, at the end of July, Regeneron, the company that created the REGEN-COV treatment, received an expanded EUA for “post-exposure prophylaxis.”

The expanded authorization now includes individuals who are not fully vaccinated or are not expected to mount an adequate immune response to vaccination, as well as those who have been exposed to an infected person, or are at high-risk of exposure to an infected person in an institutional setting, like long-term care facilities or correctional facilities.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), monoclonal antibody treatments have been distributed to 30 centers across Washington state.

According to WSDOH, HHS has shipped just over 5-thousand doses of monoclonal antibody treatments to Washington state since November 2020.

But, according to WSDOH, many of the treatments have gone unused. Just 1,260 doses have been administered since December.

“The fact that we have available treatments out there that are free with administrative costs, really, it just is important for people to realize this option exists,” Dr. Lutz said.

Lutz urged; the treatment is not a replacement for the vaccine. Still, WSDOH is working to raise awareness on the treatment and its availability to Washington state residents.

“As we start this uptick in our fifth wave, or our fifth surge, whatever you want to call it… we need everything available to us to really prevent us from going back to where we were during the fall and winter months of last year,” said Lutz.

Eligible patients can use the National Infusion Center Association’s website to find a provider.