KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A COVID-19 antibody treatment is being expanded throughout Michigan, which was announced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a press conference on Wednesday.
A West Michigan doctor said it can cut the risk of hospitalization and death by around 70% if given early enough after testing positive.
Since emergency approval by the FDA last November, over 5,600 Michiganders have been treated with monoclonal antibodies, which are copies of antibodies or immune system proteins that seek out the virus.
The therapy works best within the first few days of testing positive with COVID-19.
"It is one of those times where are really underutilizing a therapy. This is one of those times in the pandemic where we really have a resource that is not in short supply that could easily be used," said Dr. William Fales, a WMU Homer Stryker, M.D. School of Medicine professor of emergency medicine.
WMed's Dr. Fales said the antibodies are synthetically made by drug manufacturers. The monoclonal antibodies are intended to target the spike protein of the coronavirus.
"It neutralizes the virus and helps to prevent replication, reproduction of the virus,"said Dr. Fales.
While over 5,600 Michiganders took this intravenous infusion days after testing positive for COVID-19, not just anybody qualifies.
"It is intended for patients who have mild to moderate symptoms, but most importantly for patients that have high-risk factors for disease progression to hospitalization or even death," said Dr. Fales.
Those risk factors include things like being over the age of 65 or having underlying conditions like respiratory illness and heart disease.
The monoclonal antibody therapy reduces hospitalization and death for patients by around 70% compared to those who don't receive it.
The therapy is given to patients by an intravenous infusion.
"The infusion can be given in just over 20 minutes and sometimes a little bit longer. Then there is a one-hour observation period afterwards," said Dr. Fales.
Currently, two companies, "Lilly" and "Regeneron," manufacture the monoclonal antibodies.
The therapy is free with the cost covered by the federal government through "Operation: Warp Speed."
"When this first came out, it was a novel therapy. It was only authorized and continues to only be authorized by the FDA versus approved. It is a new therapy and doctors are usually a little bit skeptical about brand new emerging therapies," said Dr. Fales.
Dr. Fales said if you test positive and qualify by being high risk, he encourages you to ask your doctor about this therapy.
For more information on monoclonal antibody therapy, click here.