Antibody treatments: Vaccines are in demand while other effective drugs go unused. Here’s why

Credit: Susan Moran/Rockford Register Star
Credit: Susan Moran/Rockford Register Star

Hospitals and clinics, staggered by the needs of the sick and gearing up to help administer the new coronavirus vaccines, have not focused as much attention on [monoclonal antibody] treatments, which have to be infused into patients in a narrow window of time, within 10 days of when they start showing symptoms, but before they’re sick enough to be hospitalized. Administrators have struggled to identify people who should get the antibody drugs because of delays in testing and a lack of coordination between testing sites and hospitals.

Some have been reluctant to venture out of their homes to get the therapies in hospitals — or perceive the treatments aren’t available to them.

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In many states, the drugs are available at a relatively small number of locations, mostly hospitals, which also lessens their accessibility to patients. In Massachusetts, an epicenter of world-class hospitals and clinics, the health department has directed doses to just 11 hospitals across the state.

Earlier this month, the pharmacy giant CVS partnered with the federal government to administer 1,000 doses of Eli Lilly’s drug at nursing homes and in patients’ homes. Mr. [Alex] Azar, the health secretary, has encouraged governors to direct doses to pharmacies and outpatient clinics with infusion centers. 

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