YORK – York General has been on the list of Nebraska hospitals offering COVID-19 infusions – including Bamlanivimab – administering its 24 treatments as of Monday, Dec. 2.
Coronavirus infusions were fast-tracked for use by FDA in light of the coronavirus pandemic’s status. “They do that with some cancer drugs and other medications that show promise,” said Jamie Johnson, pharmacist at York General. Coronavirus infusion treatments’ effectiveness have not been completely proven and are considered “investigational” drugs. York General is not part of a clinical trial, Johnson said, but treatments are being carefully tracked.
Doses are allocated to states by Health and Human Services based on the previous week’s confirmed COVID-19 cases. The doses are then provided to hospitals that choose to utilize the outpatient treatment, and have the required resources to administer the infusion. “You have to have the capacity to do it,” Johnson said. “We have forward-thinking providers, and we have the resources to do it.”
There are not currently enough doses to administer to all qualifying patients. As of mid-November, the federal government will purchase 300,000 doses of Bamlanivimab from its manufacturer (Eli Lilly) within two months, according to the FDA. Between November 9-December 8, Nebraska as a whole will be allocated 2,860 treatments (patient courses).
Currently the investigational treatment cost is donated by the federal government. “The patient is responsible for IV fluids that have to hang to give it, a bag of IV fluids for mixing the drug, and nurse administration time,” Johnson explained. “Likely [the drug’s cost] will change once the drug becomes fully FDA approved. My guess is that it will be pricey.”
The antibody treatment is not for everyone. Potential recipients must be COVID-19 positive, and not have severe symptoms – among other requirements, such as age and onset of symptoms. “The thought is that hopefully it can prevent patients from being hospitalized,” Johnson said.
Coronavirus infusions, such as Bamlanivimab, are monoclonal antibodies. This type of antibody is derived from one unique white blood cell, which becomes the “parent” of the resulting antibodies. The intent is for the antibodies to prevent the intensification of coronavirus symptoms; an antispike, neutralizing antibody.
Twenty-nine days into the study, detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine, the percentage of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 was 1.6% (5 of 309 patients) in the LY-CoV555 (Bamlanivimab) group and 6.3% of the placebo patients (9 of 143 patients).
The treatment is a roughly 2-hour process; in York General’s case, it is done within the COVID-19, quarantined pressure-patient area by medical professionals in full PPE. The actual infusion, through an IV, is an hour-long process, followed by another hour of patient monitoring for any possible adverse effects. Recipients of the infusion must continue to quarantine, as the infusion is an antispike treatment, as opposed to a cure.
Johnson said offering the treatment made sense for York General’s service area. “We were seeing our numbers rise, so it was an opportunity to prevent hospitalizations,” she said. “With a pandemic, you don’t know what’s coming. It’s a chance to serve our rural community.”
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Bamlanivimab Allocation in Nebraska and Surrounding States
The number of Bamlanivimab doses allocated to Nebraska and Surrounding States as of of Dec. 2, 2020. Data from United States HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
|State||Total treatments allocated|
|Nationwide (states, territories, and federal entities)||215,540|