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Outpatient treatment option for COVID-19 available

Vicky O. Misa
The Shawnee News-Star
Notes line an inner courtyard at SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital-Shawnee. The well wishes were displayed as an encouragement for health care workers during the pandemic.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has kept the local hospital at max capacity for awhile now. Those hospitalized patients have been receiving treatment for the severe level of symptoms they are experiencing.

But what about those not quite ill enough to require a sickbed with round-the-clock care?

Pulmonologist Dr. Tony Haddad, SSM Health Medical Group, said there is an alternative that may be flying under the radar.

A monoclonal (COVID-19) antibody infusion that has been showing success in relieving the sick of their symptoms is being underutilized nationwide, he said.

“People, even physicians, may not be aware of how available it is,” Haddad said.

The intravenous (IV) infusion, nicknamed 'Bam,' — for Bamlanivimab — Haddad said, is receiving high marks for its effectiveness in neutralizing coronavirus symptoms.

“It's effective if given quickly,” he said.

Haddad explained the virus is only active in a person's body for about 10 days.

“What most people are dealing with in the hospital is the aftermath,” he said.

The Bam infusion should be given within five days to really help, he said.

The FDA released an emergency use order for Bam in November for mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful antigens such as viruses.

“It's far more effective than convalescent antibodies,” he said.

Haddad said this is the same infusion that former President Donald Trump received in October. Bam has also been dubbed the, 'Trump antibodies' (treatment).

Haddad said the treatment, given through an IV, generally takes about an hour.

No space for infusions here right now

Shawnee's hospital isn't able to offer the infusion onsite right now, but they are referring patients to those who can.

“We are set up to provide the monoclonal infusions at the hospital,” SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital-Shawnee President Angi Mohr said. “We have converted an outpatient area to a negative pressure room to allow us to safely provide these infusions to our community.”

In late December, however, she said the hospital had to close the infusion clinic down to use the space as an overflow unit for inpatients who were holding for a bed.

“We are currently in the process of working to open that unit again for outpatient monoclonal infusions,” she said. 

Haddad said there are places in Oklahoma City that can do the infusions; he has been referring residents to them.

“There hasn't been any trouble getting it,” he said, of availability of the drug. “It's not been limited so far.”

Watch for updates.

For story ideas, questions or concerns, reporter Vicky O. Misa can be reached at vicky.misa@news-star.com.