The Government Is Keeping Effective COVID Treatment From Patients

While we wait for Merck’s new antiviral pill for COVID-19 which has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by 50 percent to be approved, it seems that many doctors are overlooking an available treatment for early-stage COVID-19.

Monoclonal antibodies were first authorized by the Food and Drug Administration nearly a year ago, however, doctors often fail to mention the treatment to eligible patients even though research data shows it can significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization and death.

Former President Donald Trump received an antibody cocktail manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals when he was infected with the virus, yet his high profile case did not spark an increase in usage.

As COVID-19 numbers surged last summer, hospitals and community groups worked to help people get access to the drugs, however many centers were faced with staff and space shortages that prevented them from offering more than a few treatments daily.

“It’s unconscionable,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease physician practicing at UCSF Health. “We have an evidence-based drug, and it’s provided free by the government, but there are barriers built into the system to get it.”

This leaves patients who are in dire need of the treatment unable to find a source for monoclonal antibodies.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s senior medical advisor, urged doctors to use monoclonal antibodies more frequently, noting that the treatment reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 by 70 to 85%

“This is a very effective intervention for COVID-19. It is underutilized, and we recommend strongly that we utilize this to its fullest,” Fauci said at a White House briefing at the end of August. “We want people out there, including physicians, as well as potential patients, to realize the advantage of this very effective way of treating early infection.”

The American Hospital Association said that it is complicated to offer monoclonal antibody infusions to people because hospitals and clinics must have the right equipment, including infusion pumps, IV bags, and seating areas for patients. Some health care systems, such as the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. and Ochsner Health in Louisiana, have been able to overcome this and made monoclonal antibody treatment a priority.

Still, one investigation found that many physicians were not educated about the efficacy of the treatment.

Dr. Jeremy Levin, immediate past chairman of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization and CEO of Ovid Therapeutics, said that the underusage of antibody treatment “is a puzzle.”

“Knowledgeable physicians should fully understand the value of this treatment,” he says. “The data is not controversial and is widely available. This product is administered in a hospital setting where physicians should be even more aware of its value. There is no medical reason why this treatment should not be available to patients in need.”

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