Aug 27, 2021 - Health

Demand for COVID treatments surges as cases mount

Illustration of a shield with a monoclonal antibody image in the center

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Demand has soared in recent weeks for monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 infections.

Why it matters: Monoclonal antibodies — the treatment then-President Trump received when he got COVID — had a slow initial uptake, but are now gaining ground in the pandemic's fourth wave.

Driving the news: A handful of states with low vaccination rates and little willingness to take other safety precautions are leading the charge to make these treatments more available.

  • Texas and Florida have recently opened state-funded infusion sites.

By the numbers: Since mid-July, delivery of the antibody cocktail made by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals jumped from about 25,000 doses per week to 125,000 doses per week — with about half shipped to Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama, a company spokeswoman told Kaiser Health News.

Details: The treatments significantly reduce the risk of severe infection in people who have contracted COVID-19. They're most effective within about a week of infection, Brandon Webb, an infectious diseases physician at Intermountain Healthcare told Axios.

  • A real-world analysis published this month in Open Forum Infectious Diseases found high-risk patients treated with monoclonal antibody infusions were 31% less likely to need emergency care or hospital admission.
  • That translates into preventing one hospitalization for every eight patients treated, Webb said. "That's where you get the most bang for your buck," he said.

Yes, but: Monoclonal antibodies are resource-intensive and are no substitute for a vaccine, experts warn.

  • "The vaccines serve as the best and first line of defense. The vaccines are the way to keep from getting infected in the first place and a more effective way of, if infections do happen, being far less likely to end up in a hospital," Dan Roth, chief clinical officer of Trinity Health System told Axios.
  • "Monoclonal antibodies should serve as a second line of defense," he said.
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