Tampa General Hospital administered its first monoclonal antibody treatment to a COVID-19 patient Thursday, marking a new improvement to virus care in this pandemic.
The monoclonal bamlanivimab from Eli Lilly is a single dose treatment provided on an outpatient basis to COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms to keep patients from further deteriorating and likely avoid hospitalization.
“Effective delivery of this treatment can be logistically complicated,” said Dr. Kami Kim, director of the Division Infectious Diseases and International Medicine at USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. “Tampa General Hospital and USF Health were already actively conducting clinical trials on COVID-19 and had the team, location and infrastructure in place to identify and care for the patients who can benefit most from this treatment.”
The monoclonal antibody is a human-made protein that acts like a human antibody in the immune system. It helps block the “spike protein” in COVID-19 before entering human cells and causing symptoms. Its introduction into an already sick patient neutralizes the virus and stops it from progressing and spreading.
The treatment is an hour-long infusion. Following the treatment, patients are monitored for another hour for side effects and released for home care.
Production is still ramping up on the treatment, meaning there is still a limited supply of the antibodies, and it’s possible, at this point, that not all patients who qualify for the treatment will be able to receive it. Because of that, the treatment is currently being prioritized for high-risk patients.
Those include patients 65 or older, currently receiving immunosuppressive treatment, diabetic patients, obese individuals, or chronic kidney disease. Qualifying patients must also be within 10 days of symptom onset.
Doctors will also work with patients to determine whether they qualify for similar drugs currently under investigation in research trials at the University of South Florida and Tampa General.
“Tampa General’s commitment to treating the community during this global pandemic is what allowed us early access to this first in class treatment,” said Dr. Abe Schwarzberg, chief of oncology and senior vice president of Oncology and Network Development at Tampa General. “Having these monoclonal antibodies will allow our medical teams to provide fast, effective treatment to those patients at highest risk for falling critically ill or possibly dying of complications from COVID-19.”
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the antibodies under an Emergency Use Authorization to treat mild to moderate symptoms from COVID-19. TGH received some of the country’s first supplies and can request additional doses weekly to serve the community.