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Monoclonal antibody therapy used in Hutchinson and Wichita to fight COVID-19

Coronavirus in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Monoclonal antibody therapy is not widely used, but it is in use in both Hutchinson and Wichita.

It is not a vaccine but may help those that already have COVID-19. Some doctors say the medication is an infusion, takes about an hour to administer, and shows promise.

“Of all those who have had the infusion, we have only had a handful that have ended up with serious issues in the hospital,” said Scott Pauly, a doctor at the Hutchinson Clinic. “So yes, it is showing promise.”

Monoclonal antibody therapy is being used as a way to try and keep symptoms of COVID-19 from becoming critical for a patient.

“It is not for someone that is already in the hospital,” said Jon Powell.

Powell is in a high risk category so he talked to his doctor about getting the therapy.

Powell lives with the condition Lupus and has other risk factors. He believes the therapy helped in his case.

“This isn’t for everyone,” said Powell. “But I fit into the category of risk with health conditions and some other factors. I was trying to stay out of the hospital.”

Some doctors in the Hutchinson area say more than 400 have received the therapy.

“You have to talk to a doctor. You can’t just go to the hospital and say hey give me the therapy,” said Dr. Pauly. “I should add to that these medications are for those with COVID-19 at high risk who are not yet all that ill. If you have hypoxia, meaning low oxygen, or you are requiring hospitalization, you are not a candidate for these medications.”

Dr. Pauly says he is happy to spread the word about the therapy, even though it is not yet widely distributed.

“That is on the way, and there is a small test group that shows this has promise in some cases,” said Dr. Pauly.

He also says they have largely anecdotal evidence locally that monoclonal therapies are helping.

But he is hopeful and Dr. Pauly says it could decrease the severity of COVID-19 once a patient is diagnosed.

“Locally, we really believe this has helped decrease our trend in hospitalizations,” said Dr. Pauly. “So we are pushing the word out locally to individuals that, even if they are testing positive, contact your provider. But it’s not for everybody.”

Powell says he hopes more people consider the idea and talk to their doctor.

“Did it save my life? I would like to think so,” said Powell. “Even with the therapy, I was 50 days getting over the worst of COVID-19.”

The FDA has granted emergency use authorization for monoclonal therapies. There is a list of criteria to meet to be considered for the therapy, and you have to talk to your doctor first.

“Over 65, between 55-60 years with associated risk factors or younger with things such as diabetes,” said Dr. Pauly. “So we select out a subcategory of the population it would benefit most.”

Medical leaders say you should not rush out to the nearest hospital and ask for the therapy. Instead, you should have a conversation with your doctor. But they also say it is being used and has potential to help people that have COVID-19 from getting worse.

“We are looking at prospective data,” said Dr. Pauly.

The doctor says there is no way of knowing who would have been hospitalized and who would not between those that got the therapy and those that did not.

While this is not a vaccine, some say there is some evidence it could help prevent some COVID-19 symptoms from getting worse in select patients.

“But at this time, this is really the only arrow we have in our quiver that has any sort of data behind it to support its use as a way of prevention,” said Dr. Pauly.

There are currently two kinds of monoclonal therapy that have been given FDA approval for emergency use.

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