Alabama, Texas hospitals face shortage of antibody drugs after HHS distribution change

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Amid a change in how HHS distributes COVID-19 monoclonal antibody drugs, hospitals in Alabama and Texas — both states that are seeing high numbers of COVID-19 cases — say they're dealing with shortages of the critical treatment. 

HHS on Sept. 13 changed the way it distributes antibody drugs as demand surges across the country. Administration sites are no longer able to order the drug directly. Instead, HHS determines the amount of antibody drugs each state receives each week, and state health departments are in charge of deciding which sites get the treatment and how much.

HHS is deciding how much antibody drug to send to states based on weekly reports of new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, as well as data on how much of the treatment the states are using. It said the new system gives health departments maximum flexibility to get the treatments where they're needed the most. 

But in Alabama, hospitals now don't have enough antibody drugs to treat all the patients who need them, according to Alabama Political Reporter.  

Regional Medical Center in Anniston, Ala., administered 202 antibody treatments over three days in the last week and now has no more doses left, the publication said. 

"Unfortunately, the Health and Human Services, along with Alabama Department of Public Health, are now appropriating the monoclonal antibody treatments, and we have none at this present time," Almena Free, MD, vice president of medical affairs at RMC in Anniston, told Alabama Political Reporter

Scott Harris, MD, Alabama's state health officer, told CBS 42, an affiliate in Birmingham, that HHS' change in its distribution system "has created quite a bit of turmoil and uncertainty in the equation." 

Hospitals in Midland and Odessa, Texas, also are dealing with low supply of Regeneron's antibody drug, CBS 7, an affiliate in Odessa, reported Sept. 16. 

Midland (Texas) Memorial Hospital said Sept. 16 that it was immediately cutting back on the use of monoclonal antibody drugs after the federal government cut the state's supply of Regeneron's drug in half, CBS 7 said. 

Health leaders in both states are urging residents to get vaccinated to avoid further shortages. 

"Each Regeneron cocktail, that two-drug cocktail, per infusion on average costs about [$1,250] per infusion...; the COVID-19 vaccine on average costs [$20], so just look at the difference between what you can achieve with so much lower cost for the entire system," Rohith Saravanan, MD, CMO of Odessa (Texas) Regional Medical Center, told CBS 7. 

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