By Michelle Price
Special to the UCBJ
COOKEVILLE – Bamlanivimab, a new drug to prevent hospitalization for certain high-risk groups testing positive for COVID, is now available at Cookeville Regional Medical Center (CRMC).
Bamlanivimab, an antispike neutralizing monoclonal antibody, recently received emergency use authorization from the FDA. CRMC Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lee Taylor has been working with the state of Tennessee and the FDA on this new treatment regimen for COVID that is administered by intravenous (IV) infusion.
“This is a big deal because we want to give this early, very, very soon, in these high-risk patients, as soon as we can to ameliorate their symptoms, and to decrease their complications and to keep them out of the hospital and to keep them alive and as well as possible,” said Taylor.
To be eligible to receive the drug, a patient must have a confirmed positive COVID-19 PCR test. Rapid test results do not qualify a patient for the treatment. Additionally, patients must have never been hospitalized for COVID-19 and be within 10 days from the onset of any symptoms.
To qualify for the drug, a patient must have one of the following high-risk conditions:
- Be 65 or older;
- Have a BMA of 35 or higher (extreme obesity);
- Have diabetes mellitus;
- Have chronic kidney disease;
- Have an immunosuppressive disease or immunosuppressive treatment.
Patients who are 55 or older and have one or more of cardiovascular disease, hypertension or COPD or other chronic respiratory disease, also qualify for the drug.
Study results reported in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that for patients in the 65 and over group or patients with a BMI of 35 or higher, the infusion reduced the percentage needing to be hospitalized by 72%.
“Of all patients who received this, the patients who got the medication were only hospitalized 1.6% of the time, and the patients who got the placebo were 6.3%. So, a 75% reduction in hospitalization by using this. That’s our goal – to get this widely administered ASAP,” said Taylor.
On Monday, CRMC sent out emails to all the physicians in the area detailing the new drug and explaining the procedures necessary for patients to receive it.
A doctor’s order is required for patient to receive the drug. Once CRMC received the doctor’s order, they will schedule the infusion and contact the patient with what time to come in for the appointment.
For COVID-positive patients whose physician doesn’t feel comfortable prescribing an emergency-use drug, the Cookeville Regional Urgent Care clinic at 340 N. Cedar can check the patient’s candidacy for the drug and issue the necessary prescription for it.
The infusion takes about an hour to complete, followed by one hour of observation and patients should plan on the visit taking two to three hours.
“We want to work really, really hard for the sake of the good health of everybody who lives around here to have these patients be as healthy as possible, and not be hospitalized, not have severe shortness of breath, and to keep them out of here and out of the ICU,” added Taylor.