Worcester hospital administering monoclonal antibodies to COVID patients

WORCESTER, Mass. — Throughout the pandemic, one of the challenges for the medical community has been finding ways to treat a new disease.

Hope is now emerging as some promising new drugs become available.

Getting COVID was very scary for Kevin and Karen Moore, both of whom are fully vaccinated.

“I’ve got COPD. I’ve got asthma. I’ve got a lot of breathing issues,” Kevin said.

Karen also has asthma.

The Clinton couple went to a specially outfitted trailer at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. It’s one of 11 sites in the country selected to administer monoclonal antibodies to COVID patients.

“I did notice that within a day, I was feeling much better, the idea of wanting to get up and going to do something,” Kevin Moore said. “I felt like I could actually do it and then I was clearing leaves and everything else.”

“The efficacy has been tremendous, with almost 70% risk reduction from hospitalization and adverse outcomes from this infection,” said Doctor Sandeep Jubbal, an infectious disease specialist at UMass who runs this monoclonal antibody program.

Doctor Jubbal says these monoclonal antibodies are lab-generated. They specifically target the coronavirus and neutralize it. They also prevent the virus from infecting healthy cells. “Thereby preventing the progression from mild disease to severe disease.”

Officials in Worcester originally expected to see about 40 patients a day. That number now stands at about 130.

Not everyone is eligible, however. A patient must satisfy some criteria for being at high risk. For more information, call 1-855-UMASS-MD to confirm eligibility and book an appointment.

While this therapy, known commercially as Regeneron, has provided relief to thousands including President Donald Trump, the medical community is really excited about a pill called Molnupiravir which is from Merck.

“The advantage of that over something like Regeneron, or monoclonal antibodies, is that you can give it much sooner,” said Brandon Dionne Ph.D., Doctor of Pharmacy and associate clinical professor at Northeastern University. “You don’t have the issues of having to give it intravenously.”

Dionne thinks that could make the pill, which is awaiting emergency use authorization from the FDA, a game-changer.

“I think it’s amazing how quickly things have developed and how fast the science has evolved in terms of therapeutics,” Dionne added. “When we started, we were really just repurposing other drugs that we currently had.”

More treatment options for COVID is exciting news, but both experts had the same message.

“Vaccinating prevents hospitalization, vaccination saves lives,” said Doctor Jubbal.

Professor Dionne said, “Even if you end up being treated with something like Molnupiravir, it could still result in some long-term symptoms that might have been prevented with something like the vaccine.”

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