Patients push to get COVID-19 antibody drugs

Many COVID-19 patients have had to advocate for themselves to get access to antibody drugs from Eli Lilly and Regeneron, according to a report from Kaiser Health News

More than 550,000 doses of the drugs have been delivered to healthcare facilities around the country, but only about 30 percent have been given to patients, HHS officials told Kaiser Health News

"The bottleneck here in the funnel is administration, not availability of the product," Janet Woodcock, MD, director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, told Kaiser Health News

Gary Herritz, a COVID-19 patient who was at high risk for serious illness because he previously had a liver transplant, told Kaiser Health News he only knew of the antibody drugs after reading about them on Twitter. It took him two days of making phone calls to get an appointment to receive the treatment. 

Some hospitals have refused to offer the drugs because physicians are skeptical about research from clinical trials. The studies only included a few hundred people, and the results were limited, Kaiser Health News reported. 

Some facilities have struggled to find a space that separates COVID-19 from other patients to give the drugs, which are administered through IV. 

Many patients are also unaware of the drugs and haven't been offered the option, according to Kaiser Health News. The drugs are most effective within 10 days of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis, so the window of treatment is short.

HHS has partnered with hospitals in California, Arizona and Nevada to set up infusion centers that can treat dozens of patients daily, Kaiser Health News reported. 

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, urged providers to prescribe the drugs more frequently to eligible COVID-19 patients. 

"I want my colleagues to hear me. You need to think about and be willing to prescribe these medications much more frequently as a way to protect your patients, preserve your hospital capacity and to support your exhausted colleagues," he said, according to CNBC

HHS launched Jan. 13 an online locator that tracks facilities that have received the antibody drugs. States and territories must opt in to share information from their facilities, and HHS has encouraged all to participate.

More articles on pharmacy:
Novavax struggles to retain older trial participants now that they can receive Pfizer, Moderna vaccines
Michigan health system to pay largest settlement for alleged drug diversion in US history
Hospitals mark up drug prices by 250% on average, analysis finds


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