LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Hospitals across the area got another shot in the arm in their fight against COVID-19 this week.
Wednesday, Louisville-area hospitals received shipments of a COVID-19 antibody treatment called bamlanivimab, and doctors plan to use them as soon as possible.
UofL Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Smith says it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. The treatment is a breakthrough as when hospitals are close to the breaking point.
“Our hope is we can get this out as quickly as possible to patients that need it,” Smith told WAVE 3 News.
Bamlanivimab, made by Eli Lilly, is a lab-created antibody treatment made of proteins that mimic the human immune system. It is injected into early COVID-infected patients to speed up their natural response.
“It keeps you from having a lot of the severe symptoms associated with it,” Smith explained, “by providing you an artificial immunity so to speak.”
The drug is specifically made for the spike proteins of COVID-19 and designed to block the way they attach to cells. It’s beneficial for high-risk people in the early stages of infection, not for patients already in the hospital or who need oxygen.
“We’re talking about identifying high-risk patients who have not required hospitalization yet,” Smith said. “So, they may be early in the course of the COVID-19 infection that they have. We want to make sure that we can try and get that treatment to them as fast as possible to minimize their long-term consequences or minimize their need for admission into the hospital.”
Clark Memorial Hospital received its first shipment of bamlanivimab last Tuesday. So far, 14 patients there have taken the infusion therapy, and CEO Martin Padgett says most have felt better within 24 to 48 hours.
“We’re providing hope to those patients,” Padgett said, “but more importantly, providing hope to the entire community here at Clark Memorial saying, ‘Okay we are generating therapies. There is light at end of the tunnel. We are moving forward.’ As we move from therapies into now talking about vaccinations, we have hope that we’ll all get through this.”
As Americans wait for a COVID-19 vaccine, Smith says the antibody treatment will be a key piece to keeping people alive.
“Anything we can do right now to disrupt this cycle, or anything we can do to keep people from coming to the hospital is going to help the healthcare system overall,” he said.
Medical Center East will be another site in the Louisville area for the antibody treatment.