NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – State health officials say monoclonal antibody treatments are working to further reduce COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Monoclonal antibodies are a type of treatment doctors have been using for COVID-19 patients since November 2020.
According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, the treatment began when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorizations for two types of monoclonal antibody treatments: bamlanivimab and casirivimab plus imdevimab.
These antibodies work by directly blocking the effect of the COVID-19 virus in patients that are already infected.
So far, DHEC says more than 9,500 South Carolinians have received monoclonal antibody treatments.
“Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-designed antibodies that can detect the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, and can help your immune system get rid of it,” said Dr. Jonathan Knoche, DHEC’s immunization medical consultant. “Health care providers typically use these treatments for patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms but who are at high risk for developing severe complications from the virus.”
Monoclonal antibody treatments are currently only approved for emergency use, but data shows they help reduce hospitalizations and emergency room visits due to COVID-19.
State health officials believe more than 1,000 hospital admissions have been avoided and over 100 COVID-19-related deaths have been prevented in South Carolina due to monoclonal antibody treatments.
“Even as more and more people are receiving their COVID-19 vaccines, monoclonal antibody treatments are still an important treatment option, especially as variants become more prevalent,” said Dr. Rick Foster, DHEC Public Health Consultant.
Dr. Foster said DHEC will continue actively supporting existing monoclonal antibody treatment sites. “We’re working to add more sites across the state that offer this outpatient infusion therapy. This treatment has been very effective in reducing risk for more severe illness and hospitalization in high-risk patients with symptomatic COVID-19,” he said.
DHEC says that because current COVID-19 vaccines aren’t recommended for anyone under the age of 16, monoclonal antibody treatment is an essential resource in treating high-risk children and teenagers who can’t protect themselves by way of vaccination.
They say a private pediatric practice in Charleston County recently treated two high-rick adolescent COVID-19 patients with monoclonal antibodies.
The treatment is a single-dose IV infusion, meaning the patient receives their full dose of the antibody treatment in one sitting.
Meanwhile Trident Medical Center in North Charleston recently marked its 700th patient to receive the COVID-19 infusion therapy.
The hospital administered its first dose of the COVID monoclonal antibody 17 weeks ago, before the COVID vaccines became available in South Carolina.
Of the 700 patients who received the therapy through Trident Medical Center, 45% were men, 55% were women.
“Another highlight in the success story was our treatment of nearly 30 residents of a Lowcountry nursing home,” said Trident Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lee Biggs. “All of the patients were older than 80. After receiving the treatment none were hospitalized. When you consider what was happening in nursing homes around the country in the early phases of COVID it’s remarkable when you consider the outcomes of the patients we treated.”
Trident Medical Center has established a phone number for people who have tested positive for COVID within the past 10 days. The number to call is 843-847-4270.
Hospital leaders say the clinic is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Callers will be asked a brief questionnaire that includes their positive test date.