(WTAJ) — Doctors at UPMC say the health system will soon offer a new COVID-19 treatment that could keep some people from getting sick.
“UPMC is dedicated to giving monoclonal antibodies – a treatment that if given within 10 days of the onset of mild to moderate symptoms, decreases the likelihood of hospitalization and death,” Dr. Erin McCreary, Pharm.D., director of stewardship innovation and infectious diseases pharmacist at UIPMC, as well as a clinical assistant professor in the Pitt Division of Infectious Diseases, told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.
Dr. McCeary said the health system’s early published data show hospitalizations and deaths in patients that received monoclonal antibodies were decreased by 60 percent.
The results are better for those who received them earlier, she added.
The health system uses two monoclonal antibodies treatments available — casirivimab/imdevimab and sotrovimab.
“We are the first healthcare institution in the United States, to our knowledge, to treat a patient with sotrovimab under the FDA’s emergency use authorization.”
Both are active against the delta variant and the FDA recently expanded emergency use authorization of casirivimab/imdevimab to include patients who have been exposed to COVID 19 and have a high risk of getting the severe disease, the doctor said.
UPMC will soon offer this anti-body treatment as something called “post-exposure prophylaxis”
The treatment will be available in In-patient, out-patient, senior care facilities and urgent care for all eligible patients and either given in the vein or by an under-the-skin injection – whichever the patient prefers.
To be eligible, patients must meet certain criteria. First, they must be exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Also, they need to be not fully vaccinated — that they haven’t received a second dose – or are within two weeks of their last dose so they haven’t achieved that full immunity yet, or they are unvaccinated or have a compromised immune system. An example would be an organ transplant patient.
A person also has to have a high risk of serious illness from COVID-19, whether because of age, body weight, or chronic illness such as diabetes or kidney disease.
The treatment will soon roll out across the entire UPMC system for eligible patients ages 12 and up.
Dr. McCreary emphasized that while this preventative therapy “is very, very promising and exciting vaccination, the most important way to protect yourself and loved ones from the serious health consequences of COVID-19.”
McCreary urged people who are able to get the vaccine as soon as possible.
UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh are at forefront of research on adaptive treatments and plan on sharing the interim results from a major monoclonal antibody study later this month.
Dr. Graham Snyder, MD, MS, UPMC’s medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology, and associate professor in the University of Pittsburgh Division of Infectious Diseases, also stressed the safety and effectiveness of the three available COVID-19 vaccines against the as well as masking and social distancing.
“Masking remains an important layer of protection — particularly for those that are vulnerable to complications of COVID-19 and those whose immune system may not respond to the vaccine,” Dr. Snyder said.
“We don’t expect them to provide perfect protection, but they do exceptionally well at preventing serious complications like hospitalization and death,” Dr. Snyder said. “And I can’t stress enough how safe they are.”
Snyder added, “Without question, unvaccinated of any age and any health status are in greater danger from the delta variant – to themselves and others. The vaccine protects you and the loved ones around you.”
At the peak of the pandemic in December, UPMC had about 1,200 COVID inpatients across its health system.
“We have about a 1/10 of that today,” Dr. Snyder said. “Vaccination is a cornerstone to blunting the impact of the pandemic in our communities.”
The doctors said if a person tests positive, even if they don’t feel seriously ill, contact them.
Sign up for the WTAJ Newsletter for the latest local news, weather and community events that matter to you.