Latest COVID-19 treatment: monoclonal antibodies


LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Challenges with COVID vaccine distribution have created a greater need for awareness of a relatively new treatment. Two doctors in Acadiana talked about what it is and why time is of the essence.

Dr. Britni Hebert is double-board certified in geriatrics and internal medicine. “The bottom line is you need to get in touch with your doctor early. We have people who aren’t getting in touch with us until day 7, 8 or 9 and that medicine won’t work anymore.”

Dr. Tina Stefanski serves as medical director for the Region 4 (Acadiana) Office of Public Health. “So these are relatively new treatments for people who are not hospitalized, have mild to moderate illness and it helps to prevent the progression to severe disease.”

Hebert and Stefanski are talking about monoclonal antibody therapy, the newest weapon in the arsenal to combat COVID 19.

Dr. Hebert explains what the medicine does. “This is like an antibody that has been made that attacks the virus early on. So it is a red flag that we send into your body that attacks the virus and lets your immune system know, hey, attack this super hard, this is some bad stuff.”

The medication is prescribed by your doctor and given by IV in an outpatient facility, and Dr. Hebert says the timing is vital. “I think that we have not been utilizing it to the degree that we thought we would because people are not used to letting us know early enough, and we have to get it in by day 7.”

Two keys to the effectiveness of monoclonal antibody therapy are risk and timing. If you are 65 or older or have any underlying medical conditions, and you test positive, call your doctor and discuss it.

Dr. Stefanski urges anyone who may qualify to request it. “Specifically ask. Say I’ve tested positive, I think I meet the requirements for the IV infusion or monoclonal antibodies.”

There is still no cure for COVID-19. The IV medication won’t alleviate symptoms from the disease but could prevent severe illness or hospitalization.

Dr. Hebert says, “That second week is when we see the pneumonia and the kidney failure and the heart problems because the virus has failed to clear, but this medicine helps your body clear the virus better.”

Hundreds of patients across the state have received this treatment with little to no adverse effects. Both doctors repeatedly expressed the need for urgency if you are a candidate and test positive.

Dr. Stefanski spells out what symptoms should concern you, “So if you’ve got a dry cough, sinus symptoms, headache, you don’t feel well even though you might typically get those types of symptoms this time of  year, it could be covid and get tested because the sooner you get this treatment, the better it works.”

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