RWJBarnabas hospitals using new COVID treatment with promising results
It’s only had emergency use authorization since November, but monoclonal antibody therapy, an experimental COVID-19 treatment, continues to show promise.
According to Dr. Christopher Freer, the vice president for emergency and hospitalist medicine of RWJBarnabas Health, monoclonal antibody therapy is for those in the higher risk category, people 65 and older or those with health conditions that test positive for COVID but are only mildly sick.
Monoclonal antibodies are genetically engineered and cloned. The therapy is administered as an infusion over an hour or so and then patients will stay another hour to be observed.
“We then send you home and we arrange telehealth visits with our Barnabas Health medical doctors,” he said.
Patients are also sent home with pulse oximeters to make sure their oxygen levels aren’t dropping.
Freer said this type of treatment is not for people who are sick enough to be hospitalized.
“The earlier you get this into the patient — ideally in the first 72 hours but you can go up to 10 days — it decreases the viral load of COVID and the viral load is what makes people sick," he said.
He said doctors have been administering this treatment in the ER since mid November, to a total of almost 3,000 patients across the system’s 11 acute care hospitals, and the results have been striking.
“95% of these patients have not returned to the emergency department needing to be admitted for progression of COVID related illnesses,” he said.
He said when a COVID-19 patient shows up in the emergency room, if they fit into the high-risk category and they are not seriously ill, they are offered the treatment.
“There is not a lot of risk. There is less than 1% chance of an allergic reaction, which is easily treated,” he said. “We have not seen a lot of that."
He said this should not be thought of a miracle treatment but it is a major step forward.
He said the real “light at the end of the tunnel” is the COVID-19 vaccine and everyone should get vaccinated when they have the opportunity to do so.